MDMA is an illegal street drug with a chemical name of 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. It’s classified as a stimulant with potential hallucinogenic properties. Known by several street monikers, such as molly, ecstasy, dizzle, pink Superman and XTC, it’s a peculiar substance with unpredictable effects. MDMA is rarely sold in pure form and is usually contaminated with other potentially dangerous compounds. This makes it difficult to determine exactly what effects street MDMA will actually have, but MDMA definitely affects brain chemistry and can deplete critical brain chemicals, such as serotonin. Serotonin is associated with mood disorders, especially depression. This article will discuss and answer the following question: How does MDMA deplete your serotonin and happiness?
MDMA is produced from the root bark of the sassafras tree. Oil containing the substance safrole is distilled from the bark in a chemical process, yielding an oil with a strong, pleasant, candy-like scent of root beer. In fact, root beer was originally so named after its literal flavor source. Modern root beer no longer contains natural sassafras oil due to health concerns, and also because the flavor is easily and reliably reproduced by food flavoring labs. Natural safrole is toxic even in small amounts.
Long known as the love drug, MDMA produces strong, ethereal feelings of empathy towards others and a powerful rush of euphoria. It’s an energizing, edgy high, making it popular as a club and party drug. Some studies have indicated that MDMA’s reputation as a love drug may actually be based in fact. It seems that MDMA may actually precipitate the release of the hormone oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is the same hormone linked to mothers bonding with their newborn babies, often during breastfeeding, which also triggers oxytocin release.
Is MDMA Addictive?
There is no conclusive proof that MDMA produces physical dependence, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. The drug can definitely cause a strong psychological addiction with withdrawal symptoms that include anxiety and depression. Damage to the brain’s specialized cells, called neurons, can occur from just one dose. It doesn’t take high doses or prolonged use to cause a problem with the brain’s chemical communication system.
MDMA affects at least three of the brain’s critical communication chemicals, which are called neurotransmitters. The three most affected are serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Serotonin is closely linked to mood, pain, sleep and appetite, but it’s particularly involved in depression. Low levels of this neurotransmitter can cause profound clinical depression. Since MDMA is known to deplete serotonin, it can definitely cause depression and interfere with happiness and the ability to feel pleasure. The same is true of dopamine. Low levels of this neurotransmitter can cause feelings of despair and hopelessness. Dopamine is the brain’s feel-good chemical, and it’s also involved in the brain’s reward system.
Depression can have any number of causes. Everyone feels down or blue sometimes; that’s just part of life. This is situational depression that often occurs after some kind of disturbing event, such as the loss of a job or a romantic relationship breakup. This type of depression typically clears on its own and needs no treatment. Clinical depression has a physical cause and is far different. People with this kind of depression can become suicidal. They may not be able to function or even get out of bed. Clinical depression has been linked to low brain levels of serotonin.
The brain’s neurons communicate with each other with neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitter is released from one neuron into the synapse, which is the space in between brain cells. After it releases the neurotransmitter, the neuron then takes most of the transmitter back up again in a process called reuptake. This allows the next neuron to receive enough transmitter to carry the message without depleting the neurons of their neurotransmitters. MDMA, as well as other stimulant drugs, cause the neurotransmitters, in this case, serotonin, to remain in the synapse. In other words, it interferes with the reuptake process in a very damaging way. Neurons become depleted of serotonin faster than the brain can manufacture it. The result is depression.
Drugs in the SSRI class can help to normalize the reuptake process and make more serotonin available to the neurons, relieving symptoms of depression and sometimes anxiety as well. MDMA has a reputation as a harmless party drug, but this just isn’t true. Once the brain’s neurotransmitter system is disturbed, it may not be so simple to set it right again.
Let us Help
If you’re involved with MDMA or suspect that a loved one may be, we can help. We’re a group of trained drug counselors available 24 hours a day at 833-610-1174. Just call us anytime, and we will help you find the help you need.