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MDMA (ecstasy/molly) Relapse

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MDMA, commonly known by its street names ecstasy or molly, is a psychoactive substance often associated with club culture and music festivals. Originally synthesized in the early 20th century, MDMA has a complex profile that includes stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Its users often report feelings of euphoria, emotional closeness, and heightened sensory perception. However, MDMA can also have severe side effects, such as increased heart rate, hyperthermia, and neurotoxicity. The drug’s illicit nature and high potential for abuse make it a concern for public health authorities.

How MDMA Affects the Brain and Body

MDMA affects the brain and body in several significant ways, primarily by interacting with the brain’s neurotransmitter systems.

Interaction with Neurotransmitters

MDMA increases the activity of three key neurotransmitters in the brain: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Serotonin: MDMA’s most notable effect is on the serotonin system. 

Serotonin, a critical neurotransmitter, plays a fundamental role in managing mood, controlling appetite, regulating sleep, and performing other essential functions. When MDMA is ingested, it triggers the release of large amounts of serotonin and inhibits its reabsorption (reuptake), leading to an excess of this neurotransmitter in the brain. This flood of serotonin causes the elevated mood or euphoria that users typically experience.

Dopamine: MDMA also boosts dopamine levels, which are responsible for the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. This leads to increased feelings of pleasure and reinforces the behavior of taking the drug.

Norepinephrine: The surge of norepinephrine caused by MDMA results in elevated heart rate and blood pressure, posing significant risks, particularly for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions.

Another study in the National Library of Medicine (NIH) revealed that at least 50% of individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) also struggle with either alcohol use disorder (AUD) or drug use disorder (DUD). Moreover, these substance use disorders (SUD) co-occurrence has been linked to increased severity of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in those with BPD.

These findings underscore the critical need for targeted interventions and support systems to address the complex challenges those struggling with BPD and addiction face. By providing tailored treatments and addressing the co-occurring disorders simultaneously, it is possible to improve the chances of successful recovery and help individuals navigate the complexities of BPD and addiction to achieve a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Effects on the Body

The physical effects of MDMA are varied and can include increased energy, distorted sensory perception, involuntary jaw clenching or teeth grinding (bruxism), muscle tension, nausea, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. These effects can lead to dangerous overheating (hyperthermia), particularly in environments with high temperatures or when the user is engaged in vigorous physical activity, such as dancing at a music festival.

Long-term Effects

Repeated MDMA use can result in long-term changes to the brain. Specifically, it can lead to serotonin depletion and damage to the neurons that release it. This can result in chronic mood problems, impaired memory, and other cognitive deficits. It’s also worth noting that the comedown after the drug wears off can involve feelings of depression and anxiety, largely due to the temporary serotonin depletion in the brain.

It’s important to remember that many pills or powders sold as MDMA may contain other substances, which can have their own effects and risks and may interact harmfully with MDMA.

What Triggers MDMA Relapse?

A relapse trigger is any event, feeling, or exposure that tempts a person in recovery to return to substance use. Understanding these triggers is essential because they can potentially derail the recovery and lead to a return to drug use. Triggers can be both internal (thoughts, emotions, memories) and external (people, places, and objects associated with drug use).

It’s important to remember that many pills or powders sold as MDMA may contain other substances, which can have their own effects and risks and may interact harmfully with MDMA.

Common MDMA Relapse Triggers

Specific triggers for MDMA relapse can vary greatly from person to person, but some common ones include the following:

Social Pressure: Being in social situations where others are using MDMA can be a significant trigger, particularly if a person has a history of using the drug in similar settings, such as parties or festivals.

Environmental Cues: Specific places, smells, or songs can become associated with MDMA use and potentially trigger cravings.

Complacency: If individuals believe their addiction is under control, they may underestimate the power of triggers, which could lead to a relapse.

Romanticizing Past Use: Sometimes, people in recovery might remember their drug use in a positive light, forgetting the negative consequences that led them to quit. This romanticization can act as a powerful trigger.

Withdrawal Symptoms: Physical or psychological discomfort during withdrawal can sometimes prompt a return to drug use.

The Role of Stress and Emotional States in Relapse

Rehab Facility

Stress and emotional states play a significant role in MDMA relapse. High-stress situations can generate strong cravings for the drug as a form of escapism or stress relief. Similarly, negative emotional states, such as feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, or boredom, can trigger a relapse as individuals may resort to MDMA use to cope with these feelings. Those in recovery must develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress and negative emotions to reduce the risk of relapse.

Treatment for MDMA Addiction at Burning Tree Ranch

At Burning Tree Ranch, individuals struggling with MDMA addiction receive in-depth, personalized treatment to address the unique challenges of chronic relapse. Utilizing a holistic approach, the dedicated professionals at Burning Tree Ranch work to uncover the underlying causes of addiction, effectively helping individuals break the cycle of repeated MDMA use.

Our facility offers an array of therapeutic interventions, from individual and group therapy to cognitive-behavioral strategies and mindfulness practices, all provided in a supportive, structured setting. Furthermore, Burning Tree Ranch strongly encourages family involvement in the recovery process, recognizing the invaluable role that a supportive home environment plays in sustained recovery. By fostering long-term sobriety and personal growth, Burning Tree Ranch serves as a beacon of hope for those seeking effective recovery from MDMA addiction.

If you or a loved one is grappling with chronic MDMA relapse, don’t let this challenge stand in the way of a fulfilling, substance-free life. Take the first step towards a brighter, healthier future. Contact us today and embark on the transformative journey to recovery.



LMSW, LCDC | Counselor
Kristina Robertson serves as Counselor at Burning Tree Ranch. Holding both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Social Work, Kristina’s greatest joy is “watching our clients learn to love themselves again.” An avid equestrian, mother to twenty-one horses, and all-around animal lover, Kristina serves as a bright shining example of long-term recovery in action. Her commitment to whole person health: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual makes her an invaluable member of the Burning Tree Ranch clinical team. As a distinguished Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Zeta member, Kristina believes deeply in each client’s pursuit of becoming their best selves.

"A Message To Families"

Brook McKenzie, LCDCI, Chief Operating Officer