While ecstasy is not associated with significant physical dependence, the body can become accustomed to its continued presence. If you have been regularly using ecstasy and stop, you are likely to experience some withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, fatigue, and restlessness.
Generally, the withdrawal process from ecstasy takes a few days, but some symptoms can persist for weeks.
Ecstasy influences serotonin in the brain, which is a naturally produced chemical that regulates sleep, appetite, mood, cognition, and memory. Serotonin is called a feel-good neurochemical because it elevates the mood and makes people feel positive. When taking the drug, users experience more closeness, affection, satisfaction, and happiness overall.
The drug also releases norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. These neurochemicals also boost the mood and cause people to feel more empathy. They heighten levels of excitement.
After that peak of an ecstasy high, users come down off the drug, and this process can be unpleasant. When coming down from the drug, a person will often feel depressed. They may feel tired but have issues sleeping. They may also feel irritable, dissatisfied with life, and anxious.
What Is Ecstasy Withdrawal?
Ecstasy withdrawal is essentially a longer process of coming down off the drug.
Because the drug affects mood-altering chemicals in the brain, the user often experiences psychological symptoms when they withdraw from regular use. They may also experience physical symptoms like jaw clenching, appetite suppression, and extreme tiredness.
What Causes Withdrawal From Ecstasy?
If you stop taking ecstasy, you’ll experience symptoms that are counter to the euphoria and energy you feel when taking the drug. Because you are no longer taking the drug, you’ll experience fatigue, problems with sleep, and depression, which are the opposite of the response you get when taking the mood-elevating substance.
Because dopamine and serotonin are linked to your brain’s reward system, the drug may cause the reward center of the brain to mistake the use of the substance with life-sustaining activities like eating or drinking. Therefore, withdrawal can be tough for anyone who has become dependent on the substance to improve their mood or boost their energy.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Ecstasy Withdrawal?
These are the most common symptoms of ecstasy withdrawal:
- Panic attacks
- Physical discomfort
- Memory loss
- Anxiety and irritation
- Problems with concentration
Factors That Determine the Intensity of Withdrawal Symptoms
The severity of withdrawal will depend on overall health, reasons for taking the drug, and length of use.
If you have any pre-existing health conditions, like depression, the withdrawal process is likely to be more intense. Coupling the depressive symptoms of ecstasy withdrawal with co-occurring anxiety or depression can even be dangerous, so it’s imperative to have psychological and medical support during this process.
Duration of use and average dose will also influence the withdrawal process. People who have been regularly taking ecstasy at higher doses for a long time will experience more powerful withdrawal than those who have only used the drug for a short time or at lower doses.
Any medical conditions can increase the severity of withdrawal. If the body is already coping with other issues, it is less able to adjust to the changes brought about by withdrawal.
How Long Does Ecstasy Withdrawal Last?
Withdrawing from ecstasy is somewhat similar to withdrawing from stimulants. Detox symptoms usually begin about 24 hours after taking the last dose.
The acute stage of withdrawal generally lasts from three to five days. Symptoms may seem to suddenly appear, and they can be intense. Cravings to take more ecstasy can be particularly strong.
A protracted withdrawal phase may follow the initial shorter withdrawal process, and this may last as long as one to two months. During protracted withdrawal, people may experience anxiety, lethargy, unstable emotions, problems with sleep, and drug cravings.
Therapy and ongoing support are essential during this time, as relapse is likely. The temptation to take more ecstasy in a simple effort to feel good again can trigger a relapse. But with the right support, you can get through this phase.
The Detox & Withdrawal Timeline
Some people undergo medical detox to reduce the feeling of discomfort during the first three to five days, or the acute phase of withdrawal. During this time, they are given hydration and nutrients along with supportive medical care, so they can get through this phase much more comfortably.
The 4 Phases of Withdrawal
Withdrawal is sometimes defined by these four phases:
- Early crash: These are the first symptoms that set in, and they generally involve intense cravings for ecstasy. This phase usually begins about 24 hours after the last dose of the drug. During this stage, it’s common to have trouble sleeping, a short temper, and scattered thoughts.
- Mid-crash: This usually lasts between 24 and 36 hours. Increasing problems with depression, low energy, and fatigue occur.
- Final crash: This phase is defined by excessive sleep and daytime tiredness. The person may feel intense hunger during this phase, and this phase usually lasts two to three days.
- Protracted withdrawal: This involves withdrawal symptoms that continue for weeks or even months. The person may experience lingering symptoms of depression, ecstasy cravings, and physical fatigue. Ongoing treatment and support are important to guard against relapse.
Even if you’re not addicted to ecstasy, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. In particular, you may have cravings for ecstasy, and these may intensify in certain situations.
Detoxing From Ecstasy: How to Do It Right
It’s best to detox from ecstasy with medical and psychological support. Since ecstasy is linked to euphoric feelings, the depression that comes with detox can be intense. In some cases, it can even trigger suicidal thoughts.
In an addiction treatment program, you’ll have support throughout the entire recovery process, including detox. Medical professionals will assess your overall health and identify supportive care you need. You may receive medications to manage certain symptoms of withdrawal, such as insomnia or anxiety.
While detox is an essential component of recovery, the bulk of your work will take place in therapy. You’ll identify issues that contribute to your desire to use ecstasy, and you’ll acquire skills that allow you to build a full life in recovery. You’ll create a support network where you can turn for encouragement when things get tough.
With a comprehensive approach to recovery, you can stop using ecstasy for good.
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- The Neurochemicals of Happiness. (November 2012). Psychology Today.
- Effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine ('Ecstasy') on the Jaw-Opening Reflex and on the Alpha-Adrenoceptors Which Regulate This Reflex in the Anesthetized Rat. (April 2004). European Journal of Oral Sciences.
- Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. (2009). World Health Organization.