What is Ecstasy?
A tiny Ecstasy pill can pack a big punch. Just minutes after taking the drug, the user can feel an increased sense of euphoria and connectedness to others. This feeling of happiness comes at a high price, however. Ecstasy is very addictive, and once the addiction takes hold, addicts often need professional help in order to recover. While each addiction program might be slightly different, as the particular needs of each addict can be diverse, successful programs tend to have several of the same components in common.
In order for the tailoring to take place, the addict will need to have an open and honest conversation about the drugs he or she has been taking. The medical professionals will need to know specifics including the names and dosages of the drugs taken, and when those drugs were taken. This conversation is especially important for Ecstasy addicts, as studies suggest that these people tend to take many other drugs in addition to Ecstasy.
As mentioned, each rehabilitation program must be tailored to meet the needs of that particular addict.
For example, a study published in the journal Addiction found that people who take Ecstasy often use marijuana, amphetamines and/or heroin. Addicts who enter recovery programs for Ecstasy without revealing that they sometimes take other drugs could face a difficult time during treatment. They might experience terrible withdrawal symptoms, for example, or they could exhibit psychiatric symptoms as a result of the other drugs.
Next, the person undergoes a thorough health screening. Sometimes, long-term drug use can cause significant damage to the body, and doctors will need to treat those conditions during drug rehabilitation. For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Ecstasy can cause long-term liver or kidney disease. The drug interferes with the body’s ability to regulate temperature, and high body temperatures can cause the body to break down tissue in the liver or kidney. These medical conditions can be managed, but doctors will need to determine the severity of the damage before treatments can begin.
If medical professionals know what drugs the person has been taking, they can develop treatment programs to help deal with all of the withdrawal symptoms the person might experience.
Long-term Ecstasy use can cause changes in the way the person’s brain works. Sometimes, these changes are so severe that the person has difficulty thinking, remembering or making decisions once he or she stops taking the drug. According to an article published in the journal Neurology, these changes are due to the body’s inability to process the neurotransmitter serotonin without the use of Ecstasy. It’s unclear how long this change persists. Some addicts have brain scans or other medical tests to determine the severity of the damage and whether or not it is getting better with time. This can help the addict’s doctors determine how to best help the addict move forward with his or her life. Some people might need to learn new ways of remembering names and dates, for example, and these brain scans can help doctors spot those people and provide appropriate treatments.
Once the assessment is complete and the medical team has a plan in place, the addict begins the slow process of weaning off the drug.
While it’s true that long-term Ecstasy use can change the way the brain works and these chemical changes can persist for years, removing the drug from the user’s system rarely causes major side effects. A person who stops drinking alcohol might face seizures during detoxification, for example, while an Ecstasy addict isn’t likely to feel anything like this.
Most people who undergo detoxification do feel some level of distress, however.
Sometimes, medical professionals provide medications during detoxification to help the addict feel comfortable and relaxed. These medications can ease some of the symptoms listed above, but the drug cravings often stay in place during detoxification. Unfortunately, there are no medications that have been specifically developed to help ease these Ecstasy cravings.
In most cases, Ecstasy rehabilitation programs hone in on behavior. Since medications can’t reduce cravings, the addict will need to learn how to manage those problems through the choices he or she makes each and every day. There are several therapy options available.
Some doctors use a form of therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Here, the addict works closely with a therapist, digging down and trying to uncover why he or she began taking Ecstasy in the first place. The addict might also learn more about the damage the drug can do, which may motivate him or her to stop using it altogether. Then, the therapist and the addict work on a bit of role-playing.
The addict will learn:
- Good phrases to use when he or she is offered Ecstasy
- Ways to spot and avoid parties where Ecstasy might be available
- Methods to use when the addict feels a craving building
- What to do when he or she is tempted to use
Some therapists involve the entire family in the addiction therapy sessions. The theory here is that the addiction often has its roots in the way family members communicate with one another. If the addict has been told her whole life that she’s cold and unfeeling, for example, she might take Ecstasy and then be rewarded by her family for her improved enthusiasm.
Family therapy can get at the root of these sorts of problems and help the entire family learn to spot and stop these trends.
Some therapists also use a form of therapy known as a voucher-based incentive. This form of therapy was once considered ideal in treating teen addicts, but it’s also been proven to be effective in helping older addicts, including women who are pregnant or who have just delivered children, according to a study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors. In a voucher-based program, the Ecstasy addict is asked to submit a urine sample before each therapy session. If that sample is clean and shows no trace of Ecstasy or other drugs, the addict is given a reward, such as a set amount of money or a gift card. The rewards get bigger as long as the addict stays clean, but when a relapse occurs, the meter is set back to zero and the addict receives smaller rewards once more. This therapy is effective for a few reasons. The addict receives a tangible reward for the hard work he or she is doing, and the therapist is able to keep a close eye on the addict and address a relapse as soon as it occurs. This is an innovative new way to deal with addiction problems. According to a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, programs that include these sorts of incentives tend to retain patients better than programs that do not. It seems to engage patients in their recovery, and motivate them to change.
Some addicts benefit from participating in 12-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous. While there are no such programs developed specifically for people who use Ecstasy, Narcotics Anonymous provides a community of people who are all recovering from different types of drug addiction. Here, the addict can learn how other peers deal with their own addiction, and the addict can share his or her own addiction story and get needed support. This can be quite beneficial for some people recovering from an Ecstasy addiction.
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