Ecstasy or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), originally developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck in 1912, reemerged in the 1960s as a psychotherapy aid to lower inhibitions. During the 1980s, MDMA celebrated exclusive attention as ‘the hottest thing in the continuing search for happiness through chemistry and as a rejoiced guest of every party.’ Before being banned in 1985 due to safety reasons, it was popularly sold under the brand name ‘Ecstasy.’ The ingredients of Ecstasy ranges from little or no MDMA to a combination of substances.
The devastating effects of MDMA are considered modest and are not particularly associated with any kind of acute or chronic discomfort. One of the common problems witnessed by many users include feeling worn-out throughout the day after using this drug. Besides tiredness, some of the other side effects include dry mouth, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, impaired balance, clenching jaws, lack of appetite, etc.
MDMA, classified as phenethylamines, distorts the brain by heightening the activity of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Moreover, MDMA upsurges activities of the neurotransmitters by blocking their reuptake, which in turn increases the level of neurotransmitter within the synaptic cleft.
Among all neurotransmitters, the use of MDMA is associated with a greater discharge of serotonin and norepinephrine than dopamine. As such, serotonin, known for the regulation of mood, sleep, pain, appetite and other behaviors, is responsible for elevating one’s mood. However, due to the abnormal release of serotonin, a user is likely to experience an array of negative psychological symptoms arising because of the depletion of this chemical messenger. These symptoms, including uneasiness or apprehension, may persist for several days after taking MDMA.
The prior studies on rodents and primates have depicted that the administration of moderate to high doses of MDMA twice daily for four days results in the impairment of nerve cells containing serotonin. Moreover, primates who have been exposed to the drug exhibited deterioration of the serotonergic neurons even after seven years. The above finding demonstrates that effects of MDMA on the brain can be chronic.
Besides, the drug can also trigger further effects on the serotonin system. Binge dosing with MDMA for a week or two in rats has shown decreased expression of the serotonin transporter that allows cells to take up and recycle released serotonin. Furthermore, some key changes were seen in the expression of genes that regulate tryptophan hydroxylase, which is an enzyme involved in the synthesis of serotonin.
Since the lower levels of serotonin are linked with the feeling of depression and poor memory, people consuming MDMA regularly experience confusion, depression, anxiety, paranoia and impairment of memory. Additionally, it was also discovered that the extensive use of MDMA is associated with the depletion in the level of serotonin metabolites and other markers of the serotonin function, as well as the degree of memory impairment. Likewise, the consequences of MDMA on norepinephrine can augment one’s cognitive impairment, emotional excitement and euphoria.
The positron emission tomography (PET) brain imaging studies have shown that users who have quit MDMA have exhibited reduction in brain activity in the regions of the brain associated with the formation and processing of learning, memory, and emotion, such as prefrontal, parietal, and medial temporal cortices, as well as amygdala, cingulate and hippocampus.
MDMA is associated with a host of potential and acute adverse health issues like high blood pressure, kidney failure, panic attacks, seizures, swelling of the brain, etc. Moreover, the long-term consequences of MDMA include depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, heart diseases, sleep disorders, etc.
Besides the above-mentioned repercussions, the use of MDMA during pregnancy is linked with a delay in the enhancement of motor skills in the offspring up to two years after birth, as well as a problem in learning and memory during the developmental stage. Therefore, it is imperative to stay far from such addictive drugs. Besides adequate consultation, one can successfully overcome the problem of addiction through a proper detox therapy, which assists in expunging stored toxins.
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