- Ecstasy Withdrawal Symptoms
- Withdrawal Timeline
- Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
- Is Withdrawal Dangerous?
- Ecstasy Treatment Programs
- Ecstasy Therapy Options
- Lifestyle Adjustments
- Ecstasy Withdrawal Resources
Ecstasy is one of the most abused recreational drugs in the U.S. Known for its widespread use as a “party drug”, ecstasy is commonly taken by young adults to boost their mood and energy, which can lead to emotional and psychological addiction. This is especially the case for individuals with underlying mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, as withdrawal from the drug can exacerbate these conditions.
Luckily, there are plenty of options when it comes to recovering from ecstasy addiction. Below are the symptoms and timelines that occur with ecstasy withdrawal and the range of treatment options available.
Eliminating an addiction to ecstasy consists of multiple stages of rehab that target the physical, psychological, and emotional causes of addiction.
However, the first stage is to detox from the drug itself. This requires an individual to stop taking ecstasy, and this is best done through medically supervised detox.
During detox, an individual will experience withdrawal symptoms which can vary between each person. This is also dependent on several factors such as:
- Levels of tolerance
- Individual physiology
- Duration of use
- Dose and frequency of use
- Poly-drug use (using multiple drugs at once)
- Co-occurring condition or mental health issues
Ecstasy Withdrawal Symptoms
Common symptoms reported with ecstasy withdrawal include:
- Poor coordination
- Changes in self-perception
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of appetite
- Memory problems
Unlike other recreational drugs, it can be difficult to plot a timeline for withdrawal due to the multiple factors involved in coming down from MDMA. To complicate matters further, withdrawal is affected by other factors such as:
- Other drugs that were taken
- The length of use
- The dose taken
- What adulterants were used in the ecstasy (e.g. caffeine, amphetamines)
- Co-occurring mental health issues (e.g. anxiety or depression)
While the duration of symptoms will vary from person to person, an approximate withdrawal timeline can look like the following:
As the ecstasy wears off, an individual may experience symptoms within 3 to 6 hours after the last dose. People who use the drug recreationally often describe the hangover-like crash on days 1 to 3 as “the terrible Tuesdays” or “suicide Tuesdays”. Symptoms during this time can include:
- Increased anxiety
- Cravings and compulsion to take another dose
- “Brain zaps” or “brain shakes” (due to low serotonin levels)
- Jaw ache
- Loss of appetite
The second phase of the withdrawal can occur between days 4 to 10 and will dissipate thereafter. During this time, individuals may experience:
- Depression and anxiety
- Issues with concentration, memory
- Sleep disturbances
- Agitation and irritability
The third phase can last longer than a week and will vary depending on the severity of use. During this period, individuals may experience increased depression and memory problems, along with cravings and insomnia.
This is all dependent on how long the person has been taking ecstasy, how much they took during their last session, and what other drugs were used simultaneously. While these symptoms can fade after 2 weeks, they can sometimes last for months.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
If withdrawal symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, this is sometimes referred to as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). For ecstasy, this extended period can be due to underlying mental health conditions, especially if the individual has anxiety and/or depression.
The PAWS period differs depending on the drug, and while it is relatively weak with ecstasy, the psychological effects can lead to risky behavior and other symptoms like:
- Ongoing or severe depression
- Difficulty concentrating
- Rebound symptoms from the individual’s original condition
- Obsessive or paranoid thoughts
Is Withdrawal Dangerous?
- Anxiety can lead individuals to abuse other substances to gain relief
- Depression: Individuals with underlying depression may be at risk for suicide or self-harm due to the drop in mood that follows ecstasy use
- Decreased appetite: MDMA withdrawal can cause a reduced appetite, which, in extreme cases, can lead individuals to lose too much weight and develop nutritional deficiencies
- Insomnia: sleep disturbance and insomnia are a common symptom which can put individuals at risk of accidents or injury
There are other long-term health complications associated with ecstasy, and these will depend on several factors such as the duration and intensity of use.
Ecstasy Treatment Programs
The good news is that treatment for ecstasy addiction is readily available. While every individual is unique and will have different needs, many centers provide tailored recovery plans. Below is a list of the most common forms of treatment programs and what they entail.
Detox programs are available at certain clinics and medical facilities where they supervise a person’s drug withdrawal and provide supportive medications where necessary. These clinics are usually staffed with a team of doctors and nurses who have experience with addiction and drug withdrawal.
The advantage of going to a detox center is that medical assistance is readily available. A detox center will place you in comfortable surroundings where you can be assured of help in case of emergencies. These clinics also provide medications to ease some of the symptoms.
Short-Term Inpatient (Residential)
Short-term inpatient centers typically start with medical detox and are followed by a program of addiction treatment such as therapy or counseling for 30 to 90 days. These programs range from basic inpatient to luxury options, all varying in terms of their amenities and types of therapy.
These facilities usually provide 24-hour medical support and are often led by a team of counselors, clinicians, and doctors. Short-term inpatient rehab is ideal for individuals who need detoxing and therapy, but who don’t require long-term treatment.
Long-term inpatient treatment varies in length but typically ranges between 3 to 18 months. This type of rehab is best suited to individuals with long-term chronic addictions, especially those who have co-occurring mental health issues.
Depending on the severity of the addiction, long-term treatment may be a good option especially as many programs address the underlying emotional causes of one’s drug abuse.
Long-term treatment also provides an opportunity for the individual to physically withdraw from ecstasy while they focus on their mental and emotional rehabilitation.
These centers also vary in terms of their provision of amenities, which range from basic to luxury options.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)
For individuals who are seeking intensive treatment but still prefer to live at home, partial hospitalization (PHP) or day treatment programs are also available. PHP typically consists of hospital treatment 5 to 7 days a week for 4 to 8 hours per day. Like inpatient treatment, clinical staff are on hand to assist with detox, medication management, and withdrawal symptoms.
PHP also involves counseling and group therapy as well as specialized services that focus on skill-building, relapse prevention, and employment assistance.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
Intensive outpatient programs are less involved than partial hospitalization programs and typically take place at a treatment center or outpatient clinic. Clients receiving intensive outpatient treatment will usually visit the center 2 to 5 days per week for 2 to 4 hours per day. IOP is well suited to clients who have just completed inpatient rehab and who wish to receive intense treatment while living off-site.
The programs vary between centers, but they often involve a mixture of individual and group therapy, case management, 12-Step programs, experiential therapies, cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT), and services that cover topics like skill-building, goal setting, and relapse prevention.
Standard Outpatient Programs
Standard outpatient programs are suited to individuals who have just completed an inpatient program and want to continue some form of therapy. Standard outpatient is also ideal for people who may be juggling other responsibilities such as work or school.
Individuals typically report to a treatment center or clinic 1 or 2 days per week. These programs can include counseling, group therapy, 12-Step groups, skills development, goal setting, and relapse prevention training.
Cold Turkey Detox
While ecstasy is less dangerous to detox from than many drugs, it is not recommended that you do it alone. Individuals who experience intense anxiety and depression during detox are at risk of psychological complications.
Detoxing from ecstasy is best done safely under medical supervision where clinicians can keep you safe and comfortable.
Ecstasy Therapy Options
During rehab, centers and clinics will provide a range of treatments such as medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies. Below are some of the more effective therapy options for ecstasy addiction.
Rehab facilities that offer dual diagnosis are often staffed with psychiatrists or clinical therapists that can diagnose and/or treat co-occurring mental health conditions. This kind of treatment is especially useful for people who have underlying issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This allows clinicians to safely address these conditions alongside withdrawal from the ecstasy itself.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Due to the psychological effects of ecstasy withdrawal, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective therapies. CBT helps individuals change negative cycles of thought and behavior into more positive ones. Clients receiving CBT for addiction often learn:
- How to recognize “automatic thoughts” (i.e. dysfunctional thinking patterns and their origins)
- How to understand the behavior and motivation of others
- How to develop a greater sense of self-understanding and confidence
In essence, CBT helps clients learn new, drug-free ways to cope with triggers that might encourage them to use ecstasy again. This includes an understanding of how situations, people, or the environment can trigger an addictive desire to take ecstasy, or how to introduce healthy behaviors that can steer them away from using. CBT is known to be effective and long-lasting as clients can continue utilizing these strategies once their therapy sessions have ended.
Dialectical-Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical-behavior therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on mindfulness, how to live in the moment, how to cope with stress, and how to improve relationships. DBT also helps clients identify negative influences in their lives and learn how to develop healthy coping skills.
This kind of therapy is useful for people who have been addicted to ecstasy, especially those who have underlying conditions such as anxiety or depression. DBT is also effective for PTSD and for people who exhibit self-destructive behaviors.
The Matrix Model
The Matrix Model is another form of therapy that has shown to be effective in treating substance abuse. This 16-week approach is comprehensive and consists of a mixture of behavioral therapy, individual counseling, 12-Step support, family education, drug testing, and encouraging non-drug-related activities.
Through guided therapy, patients learn about issues connected to addiction and relapse. These sessions are designed to promote self-esteem and self-worth while the patient and therapist work together to reinforce positive behavioral changes.
Contingency management is another effective treatment for addiction and is based on a reward system. In most cases, the therapist provides incentives to the patient in exchange for ongoing abstinence and acceptance of treatment.
One well-known contingency approach is Motivational Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery (MIEDAR), which is effective for teaching individuals that it is possible to achieve abstinence using self-control. Participants who continue to abstain receive rewards such as prize draws for money or in-demand objects.
There are currently no specific medications for treating ecstasy addiction. However, there are a few medications that have proven to be helpful during the rehabilitation process.
Paxil is a common anti-depressant that is used to treat anxiety disorders, depression, and PTSD. This drug can be useful during the detox process as many clients can experience depression and increased anxiety when they wean off ecstasy.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced in the brain and is responsible for setting the body’s sleep-wake cycle. As ecstasy withdrawal causes sleep disruption, this supplement can help ensure that clients are able to get adequate and sustained sleep.
Alternative or Holistic Therapies
Many rehab centers also provide holistic therapies. The purpose of these therapies is to treat the whole person and not just the symptoms. These can be incredibly beneficial for providing calmness, spiritual support, emotional expression, improving physical health, and teaching valuable skills. Some of the popular holistic therapies include:
- Nutritional therapy
- Animal-assisted therapy (e.g. emotional support dogs)
- Adventure therapy (e.g. hiking or rock climbing)
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Art therapy
- Equine-assisted therapy
Recovering from ecstasy addiction can be challenging, but there are ways to make this process easier. Along with treatment, lifestyle adjustments and self-care can ease the symptoms while transitioning to a new life.
Exercise is great for improving cardiovascular health, which is especially important following substance abuse. Exercise also stimulates endorphins which can help with depression and low mood. Good forms of exercise include a mix of low- and high-intensity exercises such as walking, running, swimming, cycling, or yoga.
Meditation is known to help calm anxious or racing thoughts. Meditation can also stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain and improve cognitive function. Additionally, research has shown that meditation can be useful for easing tension and calming the nervous system.
Getting adequate nutrition after detoxing from substances is vitally important. The right diet can help repair any damage incurred following sustained drug use and lead to improved immunity, cognitive function, and energy. Nutritionists or doctors can provide tailored food plans specific to addiction recovery.
Learning to avoid triggers is vital during the recovery period. This can include people, situations, or circumstances that can prompt a desire to take drugs. Techniques such as CBT can help individuals learn to identify and avoid their triggers by developing alternative coping strategies.
While cravings can be difficult to manage, hobbies such as sports, art, music, or crafts can be useful distractions. These activities can help someone redirect their cravings and focus on something positive and fun.
Ecstasy Withdrawal Resources
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