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Is MDMA Tolerance Possible? What You Need to Know

MDMA, or ecstasy, is a type of synthetic psychoactive substance. It has both amphetamine-like and hallucinogenic properties. When someone takes ecstasy, there is the potential for adverse effects. With regular use, the risks are greater and can include developing a tolerance to the drug. It is important to understand how this drug affects people and when it is time to take a break.

Developing a Tolerance to MDMA

MDMA is chemically similar to hallucinogens and stimulants. It produces feelings of pleasure, distorted time and sensory perception, energy, and emotional warmth. This drug typically comes in the form of a tablet or capsule, so people consume it orally. There are powder and liquid forms, too.

This drug works on and affects the body in the following ways, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • It affects norepinephrine, which raises one’s blood pressure and heart rate.
  • It affects dopamine, which causes increased activity and energy. It also works on the brain’s reward system to reinforce a person’s behaviors.
  • It affects serotonin, which produces effects on mood, sleep, appetite, and other bodily functions. When it is working on serotonin, it can trigger hormones that cause people to trust more and experience sexual arousal.

This drug may also cause:

  • Muscle cramping
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Sweating

Once someone takes a dose of MDMA, the effects last for an average of three to six hours. Some people will take another dose once they notice the effects are wearing off. This can result in someone taking more and more of the drug. With increased usage can come tolerance.

One study looked at experienced MDMA users and tolerance. Those who are experienced may take 10 to 25 tablets in one session. They usually describe developing a tolerance to the drug, especially when they binge in MDMA, according to research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

It is believed that tolerance is more likely when MDMA is combined with other drugs. For example, people who make this drug might add amphetamine derivatives to the mixture. This could increase the risk of chronic tolerance, especially in frequent users who take high doses of MDMA at a time.

Once someone develops a tolerance to this drug, it can take time to bring it back down. This may be due to several factors, such as how MDMA affects the neurotransmitters. How often the person uses MDMA, the doses they take, and their body weight can also contribute to how quickly they build a tolerance to this drug.

Exploring the Options for Coping With Tolerance

Once someone notices they have developed a tolerance to MDMA, they should work to stop using the drug. Tolerance is a sign of repeated abuse of the drug, and this may lead to developing an addiction to MDMA. For some people, it can be challenging to stop using MDMA on their own. In these cases, it is best to seek help from an addiction treatment center.

woman at party

Whether MDMA can cause addiction like alcohol, heroin, and similar illicit drugs is still being researched. Some believe it has the potential to be addictive since it works on the same neurotransmitter systems as other drugs that have been proven to be addictive, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

People who are struggling with MDMA abuse often respond to cognitive-behavioral interventions. In fact, these are considered to be the most effective treatments, says NIDA. These types of therapies help people to change their thinking, behaviors, and expectations. This gives them a chance to learn coping skills to better deal with stresses in life.

When someone begins treatment, they usually start with detox. This will help them to stop using MDMA as comfortably as possible. Behavioral therapy will follow detox, and it is generally a long-term endeavor.

It is possible to experience cravings for the drug after someone stops using it, according to research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. This is another reason why some people think it is an addictive substance. However, cognitive behavioral therapy can help people to find ways to deal with the cravings so that they do not become too overwhelming and threaten their sobriety.

Do You Need a Break?

Once someone develops MDMA tolerance, it is time to think about taking a break. When tolerance is present, it usually means that someone will keep taking more of the drug to experience the effects.

When someone is using MDMA moderately, different effects that can occur, NIDA reports. These include:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Reduced appetite
  • Aggression and impulsivity
  • Sleep issues
  • Attention and memory problems
  • Losing pleasure and interest regarding sex

These effects may last up to a week. Some refer to them as withdrawal symptoms. They may start once the drug’s effects start to wear off. How severe they are will vary. For some people, the depression associated with withdrawal can be significant.

These effects are due to how this drug affects the brain’s neurotransmitters. When someone takes MDMA, especially in large doses or for an extended period, their body gets used to higher neurotransmitter levels. When they stop taking the drug, the body has to essentially relearn how to function with reduced neurotransmitter levels once the levels return to normal.

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While it is considered rare, it is possible to overdose on MDMA, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. When an overdose occurs, it may cause faintness, loss of consciousness, seizures, high blood pressure, and panic attacks. Any person who experiences an MDMA overdose should seek treatment for the overdose.

Other reasons to take a break from this drug include experiencing hyponatremia or hyperthermia. Ecstasy can cause a significant increase in body temperature that can sometimes be life-threatening, according to research published in Temperature. Hyponatremia, or low sodium levels, is another concern that can occur since MDMA tends to cause people to drink a lot of fluids because it causes thirst and dry mouth. 


Get Help to Stop Taking MDMA

Ecstasy is an illicit drug that has a high potential for abuse. As someone continues to use the drug, they can build a tolerance for it. This means needing more of the drug to achieve the high.

Once tolerance develops, people should consider no longer using this drug. Treatment at an addiction recovery center can help people get on the road to sobriety before severe addiction takes hold. 

Sources

MDMA Ecstasy/Molly. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly

(January 2005) Chronic Tolerance to Recreational MDMA or Ecstasy. Journal of Psychopharmacology. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15671132

MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/how-are-mdma-use-disorders-treated

Is MDMA Addictive? National Institute of Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/mdma-addictive

(April-June 2014) The Prevalence, Intensity, and Assessment of Craving for MDMA/Ecstasy in Recreational Users. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25052792

Can You Overdose on MDMA? Drug Policy Alliance. Retrieved January 2019 from http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/can-you-overdose-mdma

(October-December 2014) Effects of MDMA on Body Temperature in Humans. Temperature. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008716/

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