Long-Term Health Risks & Effects Of MDMA/Ecstasy Use

MDMA manipulates the user's brain chemistry and repeated abuse can have long-term physical and mental health effects, including a much higher risk of depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment.

MDMA is a common name for a synthetic drug called 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine. The drug is also sometimes called ecstasy or molly. It first became popular at nightclubs and all-night dance parties called “raves.”

Like other street drugs, MDMA poses some long-term health risks.

How Does MDMA Work?

MDMA is available as a tablet, capsule, liquid, or powder. The drug enhances the activity of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) called dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

It causes stimulant effects, such as increased energy and alertness, as well as hallucinogenic effects, such as hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there) and an altered sense of time. It can also cause an intense sense of pleasure, well-being, and emotional warmth.

Short-Term Effects

In addition, the drug can have a number of negative side effects. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the most common short-term side effects of MDMA include:

  • nausea
  • muscle cramps
  • sweating
  • chills
  • blurred vision and other visual distortions, such as difficulty judging distance (also called “ecstasy eyes”)
  • teeth clenching
  • increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • increased body temperature, which can sometimes lead to a life-threatening condition called hyperthermia (overheating)

Some people also experience unpleasant after-effects for up to a week after using the drug.

These effects may include:

  • irritability
  • trouble sleeping
  • memory problems
  • reduced sexual desire
  • reduced appetite

Long-Term Health Risks & Effects Of MDMA/Ecstasy Use

Along with causing short-term side effects, MDMA can raise your risk of long-term health problems such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • insomnia (a condition that makes it difficult to fall or stay asleep)
  • heart disease
  • liver or kidney failure
  • cognitive problems, including problems with concentration, memory, and impulse control

In some cases, these health problems may result not from MDMA but from drugs that are often used alongside MDMA, such as alcohol, ketamine, and LSD.

MDMA can also worsen symptoms of pre-existing health issues, such as epilepsy, asthma, and high or low blood pressure.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Other potential long-term effects of MDMA are sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Because MDMA can increase feelings of love and trust, it makes people more likely to engage in unsafe sexual behaviors, such as unprotected sex with multiple partners.

Overdose

In addition, frequent MDMA use can lead to a fatal overdose.

The most common signs of an MDMA overdose include:

  • high blood pressure
  • confusion
  • panic attacks
  • overheating
  • fainting
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness

If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical help right away. When left untreated, an MDMA overdose can be fatal.

Long-Term Health Risks Of MDMA Adulterants

Like other illegal drugs, MDMA is sometimes laced with other substances.

For example, some drug dealers lace MDMA with cheaper drugs that produce similar effects, such as caffeine and prescription amphetamines (like Adderall).

MDMA that’s been laced with these substances has milder effects than pure MDMA. Thus, many people who use these drugs try to boost their effects by taking extremely high doses, which greatly increases the risk of overdose.

Meth & Bath Salts

Other drug dealers lace MDMA with powerful drugs like methamphetamine (meth), cocaine, and synthetic cathinones (also called “bath salts”). These drugs come with their own long-term health risks.

For instance, meth can cause permanent brain damage, and both meth and cocaine can cause heart attack and stroke. Synthetic cathinones can cause kidney failure and the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue. In addition, all three drugs pose a high risk of addiction.

In most cases, it’s impossible to tell whether MDMA has been laced with other substances. That means that the only way to avoid the above health risks is to never use MDMA.

Is MDMA Addictive?

Drug addiction (also called substance use disorder) is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to control your drug use. Researchers have not yet determined whether MDMA is addictive.

However, some people who regularly use MDMA and then stop experience withdrawal symptoms such as loss of appetite, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and depression. This suggests that the drug can cause physical dependence, which is a common sign of addiction.

Other signs of MDMA abuse and addiction may include:

  • tolerance (needing increasingly larger or more frequent doses of MDMA to feel the desired effects)
  • mood swings
  • loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • loss of motivation
  • sudden change in friends
  • decline in personal hygiene
  • trouble performing at work or school

These symptoms indicate that you should seek help at a substance abuse treatment program.

Find A Treatment Program

If you or a loved one struggles with MDMA use, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. Our board-certified health care providers offer mental health counseling, group therapy, and a variety of outpatient addiction treatment options to help you stay healthy and sober.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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