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MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) Detox And Withdrawal Symptoms And Timeline

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

June 11, 2019

MDMA (ecstasy/molly) is a common party drug used for its psychedelic effects. Physical dependence on MDMA may cause withdrawal symptoms with stopped use. Uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can be managed within a medical detox program.

MDMA, also known as ecstasy and molly, is classified as a ‘club drug’ capable of altering mood and perception. MDMA can cause hallucinogenic effects, affecting sounds, sights, and other sensations.

MDMA can be taken in several forms, including pill, powder, or liquid form. Ecstasy affects chemicals in the brain responsible for regulating mood, appetite, heart rate, and other functions. The effects of a single dose of MDMA typically last three to six hours. This may then be followed by a ‘crash’ period.

Many symptoms experienced during a ‘crash’ – such as depression, anxiety, and irritability – have been likened to molly withdrawal symptoms. Although ecstasy is not known to be very addictive, people who use ecstasy on a regular basis may develop dependence.

MDMA dependence, like dependence on most other drugs, can cause a reaction in the body known as withdrawal. Symptoms of MDMA withdrawal are unlikely to be severe, but can be very uncomfortable and last for up to ten days.

What Are The Effects Of Ecstasy (MDMA) Withdrawal?

MDMA (ecstasy/molly) affects several systems throughout the body as a result of changes it makes in the brain. Although less common than addiction to illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine, several reports indicate that ecstasy has a potential for addiction.

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Ecstasy dependence and addiction is more likely to occur after chronic use. This can cause the body to adapt to the presence of MDMA in your system, resulting in withdrawal with stopped use. Ecstasy that is mixed or cut with other substances, like cocaine or amphetamines, can affect side effects and symptoms.

In addition to dependence, long-term abuse of MDMA can also cause:

  • sleep disturbances
  • low appetite
  • poor concentration
  • heart disease
  • depression
  • increased impulsivity

Ecstasy Withdrawal Symptoms

There is little research documenting the range of symptoms that can occur during MDMA withdrawal. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the most common symptoms are psychological.

Symptoms of ecstasy withdrawal may include:

  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • loss of appetite
  • low energy
  • muscle twitches
  • runny nose
  • teary eyes
  • anxiety
  • agitation
  • unpleasant dreams
  • insomnia

Molly withdrawal symptoms can be difficult for people to manage, and may lead to relapse if symptoms become too intense. In rare cases, withdrawal may cause seizures.

Ecstasy Symptoms and Timeline During Treatment

Acute withdrawal from MDMA can last up to ten days. After this, some mental and psychological symptoms may persist, depending on biological and personal factors.

Days 1 to 3: MDMA withdrawal symptoms are likely to begin within 12 hours of a person’s last dose. Initial symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, and depression. People can also feel fatigued and have trouble sleeping during this time.

Days 4 to 10: Symptoms of withdrawal tend to peak after the first couple days without MDMA. At this point, people can feel extremely agitated, and may continue feeling sluggish and depressed. Experiencing mood swings and being unable to concentrate is also common.

After 10 days: After seven to ten days, most acute withdrawal symptoms should be gone. Depending on how long a person used ecstasy, and the severity of their dependence, feelings of agitation, mental fogginess, and depression may continue.

People that are overcoming long-term ecstasy abuse can continue experiencing some mental and psychological symptoms for time. Chronic abuse of MDMA can also have lasting effects on a person’s ability to feel pleasure, resulting in low mood.

Treatment through therapy and medications can be helpful for people that continue experiencing anxiety, depression, and other difficulties following withdrawal.

Factors That Can Affect Withdrawal

The withdrawal process is not going to be the same for every person coming off MDMA. The symptoms a person experiences, and their severity, can differ depending on a variety of factors. This includes a mix of personal, biological, and lifestyle factors.

Factors that can affect MDMA withdrawal:

  • amount taken
  • polysubstance abuse (abusing more than one drug or substance)
  • co-occurring mental health disorders
  • overall health
  • duration and frequency of use
  • severity of dependence

Some people that abuse ecstasy do not experience withdrawal symptoms. This can vary based on a mix of the factors listed above.

Ecstasy Addiction Detoxification Options

Detoxification, or detox, is the process of removing a drug from a person’s system. This occurs through a natural metabolizing process, and can trigger withdrawal symptoms.

Can You Detox From Home?

There has been little assessment on the safety of detoxing from MDMA dependence in a home environment. Although withdrawal is unlikely to trigger life-threatening symptoms, it can be a highly-distressing process.

Home detox also has a higher risk for relapse, as people can sometimes take another MDMA dose to relieve withdrawal symptoms. Medical support is advised during any drug detox process, both to reduce risk for relapse and provide treatment for symptoms as needed.

Medical Detox

Medical detox programs provide a safe setting for people to withdraw from drug dependence and can offer several benefits. First, formal detox programs offer medical support from professionals trained to treat drug withdrawal. This can involve administering certain medicines able to ease intense or uncomfortable symptoms.

Finally, entering a medical detox program can connect patients to resources for MDMA addiction treatment. While detox can treat physical effects of dependence, it is not a complete treatment program.

People overcoming MDMA addiction may benefit from entering a rehab program where they can receive therapy and explore holistic treatment options.

Getting Help and Recovery For Ecstasy Abuse, Withdrawal And Dependence

Many addiction treatment programs can offer effective methods for treating MDMA abuse and dependence. This includes treatment services such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which addresses how thoughts and emotions can influence substance abuse behaviors.

Entering a rehab center for MDMA abuse can provide patients with the time and space to learn how to live a balanced and sober life. Recovery is not always an easy journey, but it doesn’t have to be faced alone.

Contact us today to learn more about MDMA (ecstasy/molly) detox and addiction treatment options.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse

U.S. National Library of Medicine: PubMed - Test-re-test reliability of DSM-IV adopted criteria for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) abuse and dependence: a cross-national study

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