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How does ecstasy affect the brain?

colourful ecstasy tablets on white background

Understanding how ecstasy, also known as MDMA or molly, affects the brain starts by learning a little about how the brain sends messages. When you feel pain, hunger, joy or anything else, it is due in part to chemicals called neurotransmitters. These are substances that brain cells use to communicate.

When people use a drug like ecstasy, it hijacks these chemical signals in one of a few ways. These include mimicking the signal, enhancing the release of the chemical or blocking the brain’s reabsorption of the chemical signal.

Drugs that mimic the chemical signal simply flood the brain with something that your brains receptors confuse with legitimate signals. Think of it like a password. Your brain has a code you have to type in to feel good. The drug knows the password and just types it in over and over again.

Drugs that enhance the release of chemical signals stimulate the brain to start producing more of a certain signal. This is like a stoplight. Under normal conditions, the stoplight would be green some of the time and red some of the time. When a drug stimulates the release of a chemical signal, it is like forcing the stoplight to be green for as long as the drug lasts.

Drugs that block reabsorption simply prevent your brain from cleaning up old chemical signals. Think of this like a water filter. If you have water flowing in a circle and you add blue dye, the water turns blue. If you add a filter, the dye is removed. The drug simply removes the filter that is cleaning up old chemical signals.

So how does ecstasy affect the brain? It enhances the release of 3 neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine). Then it blocks the brain’s reabsorption of these chemicals.

All 3 of these neurotransmitters are linked to feelings of happiness so essentially, ecstasy floods your brain with all the chemical signals that tell you to feel good. Then it keeps those signals around for longer so you feel a euphoric high. These intense good feelings come at a cost though.

There are a number of problems with how ecstasy affects the brain. The most noticeable is that you eventually run out of the 3 neurotransmitters we mentioned above. It takes time for your brain to make more of these chemicals and someone who takes ecstasy uses up the brains whole supply in one hit. That causes the comedown that people feel for several days after using ecstasy.

Another issue that has been seen in a number of studies conducted with ecstasy users was a disruption in the brains handling of serotonin. Essentially, users had altered the way their brains functioned and started to experience confusion, depression, anxiety, paranoia, memory problems and difficulty concentrating.

If you are struggling with your ecstasy use and want to stop, Help Me Stop could be your solution. Our dayhab and online programmes fit around your everyday life and provide you with all the tools you need to quit. Contact us today to learn more.

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