Ecstasy addiction is similar to amphetamine and other similar stimulant drug addictions. That means that these people continue to take the drug despite experiencing unpleasant side effects, and other social, behavioral, and health damage.
No one knows how many times a person needs to use the drug before developing an ecstasy addiction. A person’s genetic makeup, their living environment, and other factors probably play a role in their susceptibility to addiction.
Ecstasy addiction involves the same risks as those in amphetamines and cocaine addictions. Psychological difficulties such as confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety, and paranoia appear during and in some cases for weeks after taking ecstasy, which is also called MDMA. Psychotic episodes have also been observed. Physical symptoms like muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, and chills or sweating also accompany use. Increases in heart rate and blood pressure become a particular danger for those with circulatory or heart disease.
Ecstasy addiction can lead to long-term brain damage. Research findings also connect MDMA use to long-term damage to the parts of the brain which are vital to thought and memory. It is thought that the drug damages the neurons which employ chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons. In experiments with monkeys, exposure to MDMA for 4 days caused brain damage that was evident 6 to 7 years later.
A different study provides further evidence that people who take MDMA may be risking permanent brain damage. “The serotonin system, which is compromised by ecstasy, is fundamental to the brain’s integration of information and emotion,” says Dr. Alan I. Leshner, who directs the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, which funded the research. “At the very least, people who take ecstasy, even just a few times, are risking long-term, perhaps permanent, problems with learning and memory.” Serotonin is also believed to play a part in regulating mood, memory, sleep, and appetite, so anyone who has developed an ecstasy addiction has used enough to have serious damage.