Ecstasy Abuse Causes, Statistics, Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy is a mind altering drug that is commonly known as a “club” drug, meaning that it is heavily used in dance clubs and raves. Ecstasy, also known by its chemical name MDMA, is a manufactured designer drug created specifically to get a person high. It is an amphetamine derivative with hallucinogenic properties. The property combination of ecstasy gives the user a sense of euphoria and then intensifies these feelings. The drug effects normally last between three to six hours. Ecstasy is either swallowed as a pill or snorted through the nose in powder form. Some of the other names for ecstasy are X, XTC, the Love Drug, Disco Biscuits, Scooby Snacks and Vitamin E just to name a few.

Ecstasy Abuse Statistics

Currently, ecstasy is a designer drug that is mainly being abused in the college club atmosphere. There are varying results in determining how physically addictive ecstasy is, but those who abuse the drug do show signs of dependency.

MDMA was first used in the 1970s, not as a recreational drug but as an aid in psychotherapy—although without the support of clinical trial research or FDA approval. In 1985, the Drug Enforcement Administration labeled MDMA a Schedule I substance, or a drug with high abuse potential and no recognized medicinal use. Other ecstasy statistics are as follows:

  • Research thus far on MDMA’s addictive properties has shown varying results, but we do know that some users report symptoms of dependence, including continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm, tolerance (or diminished response), and withdrawal effects [1].
  • In 2009, 2.8 million Americans age 12 and older had abused MDMA at least once in the year prior to being surveyed [2].
  • The NIDA-funded 2010 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 2.4% of 8th graders, 4.7% of 10th graders, and 4.5% of 12th graders had abused MDMA at least once in the year prior to being surveyed [3].
  • Some studies indicate that repeated recreational users of MDMA have increased rates of depression and anxiety, even after quitting the drug. A review of the published literature on memory show that ecstasy users may suffer short-term and long-term verbal memory impairment—with 70–80% of ecstasy users displaying impaired memory. Moreover, this research shows the amount of doses consumed does not significantly predict memory performance [4].
  • Ecstasy consumption has increased 70% worldwide, and its use is currently outweighed heroin and cocaine [4].

Causes of Ecstasy Addiction

Ecstasy is not considered physically addictive, but reports that state this claim do vary. The tolerance to ecstasy is quickly built up which helps prevent a physical dependency. However, ecstasy can be psychologically addictive. The person abusing ecstasy can become addicted to the high and the intense feelings of euphoria that are a result of abusing the drug. They can also become addicted to the powerful feelings of love and intimacy that are produced when taking ecstasy. The average ecstasy trip lasts between three and six hours. Unlike other hallucinogens, ecstasy does have physical side effects that can result in permanent brain damage.

Signs of Ecstasy Use, Addiction and Dependence

Whereas physical dependence to ecstasy often does not occur, a very strong psychological dependence can be developed. The drug induced “trips” that the individual using ecstasy experience can become quite addictive. The trips that are encountered can be either good or bad. A “good trip” is where one enjoys the experience and a “bad trip” is where one hates the experience. The experience is dependent on a number of various factors. Some of these factors include:

  • The user’s sense of well being
  • Dosage strength of the MSMD
  • Physical environment
  • Previous experiences
  • State of mind

The user can exhibit one or several of the following physical or emotional signs:

  • Euphoria
  • Intense feelings of love
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Increase body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Intensified body senses

Ecstasy Effects

There are several harmful outcomes to abusing ecstasy. Abusing ecstasy in the short-and-long term can have detrimental results for both the emotional and physical well being of the user. Some of the physical signs of abuse include:

  • Damage to brain cells involved in thinking and memory
  • Dizziness
  • Teeth grinding
  • Hyperthermia
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Brain damage
  • Vertigo
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite

There are multiple side effects that relate to the psychological health of someone abusing ecstasy. Some psychological side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Diminished concentration
  • Reduced focus and attention
  • Impaired drive and motivation
  • Lingering feelings of empathy and emotional sensitivity

Normally, the side effects will subside soon after the user has come down from an ecstasy trip.

Severe depression and anxiety can continue even after the user has quit using ecstasy. Verbal and memory functions can be permanently impaired as a result of ecstasy abuse. In addition, the amount of the ecstasy needed to cause permanent brain damage is not known. Brain damage can result after only a few uses.

There are other types of consequences that are produced when abusing ecstasy. The user’s family life, personal life and professional life will all suffer. The loss of a marriage, the loss of friends, the loss of a career and time in jail are all real possibilities when abusing ecstasy.

Ecstasy Withdrawal

Although ecstasy abuse may not be physically addictive, there are still physical issues that need to be addressed, and there are psychological dependency concerns that are prevalent. The abuse of ecstasy results in depleted serotonin levels in the brain. As a result, this leads to depression. Ecstasy abuse also leads to the loss of verbal and memory functions. Not all of these effects can be reversed or repaired.

Ecstasy Addiction Treatment

Ecstasy addiction treatment is different than treatments supplied for other physically addictive drugs. Although ecstasy is basically considered non-addictive, it can still be habit forming. Psychological dependency is the primary focus for ecstasy rehab. A psychological addiction is developed when a person thinks that the drug is required to function normally, but the negative physical reactions are not produced. A person using ecstasy cannot stop or reverse the effects of the ecstasy. Once the user takes the drug, the person has to continue the trip until the ecstasy has worn off. There are not any known antidotes to neutralize the effects of ecstasy.

There are many types of ecstasy rehab and multiple approaches. An effective ecstasy treatment center is one that uses several different treatment modalities to create a personalized addiction recovery program. A holistic approach including behavioral therapy, support programs and intensive treatment therapies are used for ecstasy abuse treatment. Overcoming ecstasy abuse successfully will depend on the ecstasy rehab program, friends, family, and the treatment therapist, but most of all, it depends on the user acknowledging there is a problem with ecstasy abuse and asking for help.

Additional Articles About Ecstasy Addiction Treatment

  • The Rave and Party Scenes too often go hand-in-hand with the dangerous and illicit drug Ecstasy. Known as the “club drug”, Ecstasy is commonly used among teenagers and young adults, especially at dance parties and all night raves. While its presence among the party scene might give commonplace to the drug, it is important to understand the reality of Ecstasy. Learn more here.


[1]: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) –

[2]: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) –

[3]: Monitoring the Future Study –

[4]: Journal of Education and Health Promotion –;year=2012;volume=1;issue=1;spage=32;epage=32;aulast=Pirzadeh

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 1, 2014
Published on, Online Substance Abuse Information