Ecstasy might feel great, but what comes after the high? If one follows the numerous studies on this topic, the after-effects of the consumption can be long-term. On the topic of mental health alone, ecstasy and depression often tie into one another. But there’s more to this correlation than meets the eye.
“You open yourself to the outside, become very extroverted, everyone loves you, everyone loves you,” says a drug addicted patient. He felt happy in ecstasy. He felt like floating on a cloud.
“But the week after, it’s catching up with you,” he adds. “The luck that you used up on the weekend, that’s missing somewhere, and you are depressed, unbalanced, tired, impotent.”
What the patient has experienced is quite typical for ecstasy users. First comes the high, then the low.
When excesses are celebrated on weekends and stimulant drugs are consumed, the body is subjected to enormous stress.
Because ecstasy does not add energy to the body, but rather causes it to exploit its energy reserves.
Ecstasy empties serotonin storage
Under the acute effects of ecstasy, the neurotransmitter serotonin in particular is increasingly released. Serotonin is released from the stores of nerve endings in the so-called synaptic cleft.
Serotonin migrates in the synapse to the next nerve cell and triggers an electrical impulse there.
After signal transmission, serotonin is usually restored to its previous storage, but ecstasy inhibits reuptake at the same time.
Serotonin is thus much longer active in the synaptic cleft. The nerve cell that receives the serotonin signal fires particularly intensely. Consumers feel activated and happy.
Ecstasy and nerve damage
Studies show that more ecstasy use, however, may cause nerve damage. A research team examined ecstasy users twice each year. As it turned out, the memory of the consumers was noticeably worse from about 10 Ecstasy pills per year.
In addition, the research team screened the brains of the participants using magnetic resonance imaging.
One particular brain region, called the hippocampus, was visibly less active in ecstasy users than in a control group with minimal ecstasy experience. The hippocampus is an area that plays an important role in memory formation.
Large study on long-term effects of ecstasy users
However, ecstasy use is not only reflected in poorer memory, but also affects the minds of consumers. It takes a while for the serotonin stores to be replenished. It often takes up to a week for the body to recover.
For this reason, consumers and the patient feel tired and impotent for a while after consumption. With frequent use, however, the mood may deteriorate permanently, as a study by the London Metropolitan University has shown.
Nearly 1,000 people participated in the study by Lynn Taurah and her team. Recruiting for the study was very time-consuming and took five years.
The large sample was necessary because the team has formed six different groups to assess the impact of ecstasy in contrast to other drugs.
One group consisted of people who were currently consuming ecstasy and other drugs.
People in a second group had already stopped using ecstasy at least four years ago. In addition, there were four control groups, including those who had previously only had experience with alcohol and nicotine and those who have never drunk alcohol or smoked cigarettes.
The fifth group had experience with cannabis, and the sixth group consisted of people who had used other illegal drugs besides cannabis but never ecstasy.
All participants in the study completed a series of tests. According to the research team, this is the largest study to date to review a wide range of mental health effects of ecstasy use.
Depression and insomnia when using ecstasy
The results provided a clear picture: Ecstasy-consuming patients were more affected by depression and sleep problems than any other person with or without drug use.
The values obtained were in a clinically meaningful range, ie outside normal fluctuations. In this respect, the consequences of ecstasy consumption are likely to have a negative impact on everyday life.
Although memory problems also occurred, they also showed in drug-experienced persons without ecstasy. The research team suspects that the combination of several substances are crucial.
Noteworthy are the results of the former ecstasy consuming. The subjects of this group were abstinent between four and nine years, so had enough time to recover from ecstasy.
However, they were almost as affected by depression and sleep problems as current consumers.
The more ecstasy, the stronger the symptoms
From the point of view of the research team, these results suggest that ecstasy can trigger long-term depression and sleep problems.
However, the research team can’t provide proof. Because there is the possibility that ecstasy users generally tend more to depression and sleep problems, so even before the first Ecstasy pill showed symptoms.
On the other hand, a causative effect of ecstasy use is indicated by the fact that a dose-response relationship was found: the more ecstasy a person consumed in their lifetime, the more pronounced were depressive symptoms and sleep disturbances.
This also means that the sooner consumers exit consumption, the more likely they are to recover completely from the health consequences.
The patient had also come to a point at which he no longer wanted to put up with the disadvantages of consumption: “At some point, the fun I had on the weekend was no longer worth the depression I had on the week. Then I said to myself, ‘I stop it’.
Personally, it helped a lot to me to do sports, to do a lot of sports on a regular basis, to spend so much that one evening K.O. falling into bed and not wasting any thought about missing something. In any case, I notice that I am more balanced, that my mood does not fluctuate any more. I have to say, I am very happy about it,” said the ecstasy consumer.