MDMA Addiction and Your Teen

August 8, 2019

Many people have never heard of MDMA (short for methylenedioxymethamphetamine). On the flip side, most have heard of ecstasy. Otherwise known as the love pill or the club drug, ecstasy heightens perceptions of sound and color and is also known to increase the physical sensation of touch, especially during physical intercourse. Ecstasy contains hallucinogens, which act on the mind and result in peopling seeing or feeling things that are not really there. These hallucinogens can really throw a person for a loop, calling on scary or sad experiences from the past. Often, those taking the drug can get stuck in these old memories, fixating on them, without realizing it. Thus, MDMA addiction can be very dangerous and hard to break.

Ecstasy’s reputation as a love pill is simply one of the many lies that are spread about this highly addicting drug. The drug is emotionally detrimental, and those experimenting with it often suffer depression, severe anxiety, confusion or paranoia, psychotic behavior, and a host of other psychological challenges.

In most cases, people take ecstasy in pill form. Many ecstasy tablets contain MDMA in different concentrations, as well as a number of other drugs combinations that can be especially harmful. And when someone takes MDMA, they often feel the results about 45 minutes later, and then the effects peak approximately 15 – 30 minutes after they are first felt, and the overall effect then lasts for about three hours. Because the high that the person feels is so strong and euphoric, it is not uncommon for a second dose to be taken as soon as the first dose starts to wear off.

How to know if your teen has an MDMA addiction

Though MDMA has harmful effects on anyone who takes it, the drug can be especially dangerous for teens. It is believed that almost half of teens who have tried ecstasy have continued to use it, despite knowledge of how dangerous long-term use can be. There is also a high rate of ecstasy dependence among users overall. When a user tries to stop taking the drug, they often experience feelings of fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and difficulty concentrating.

If your teen has been acting differently in recent weeks or months, and you suspect that they may have experimented with ecstasy or another illegal drug, you may wish to look out for the following emotional behaviors:

Physical symptoms are often common and may include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Involuntary clenching of the teeth
  • Nausea or a consistently upset stomach
  • Blurred vision or rapid eye movement
  • Faintness
  • Sweating or chills
  • Increases in heart rate and blood pressure

If your teen is demonstrating an ongoing presence of one or more of the above symptoms, parents may wish to check the teen’s room and belongings for evidence of drug paraphernalia. Items such as pacifiers and lollipops, which teens use to keep from grinding their teeth can be a sign of trouble. Glow sticks, vapor rub, and surgical-type masks are also of concern. Obviously, these items would be unusual to find without an obvious explanation, and many parents don’t understand that these items are used to enhance the feeling and accentuate the feelings of ecstasy on the senses. If you uncover any of these items in your teen’s room, it will be critical to have a conversation with your teen as soon as possible. Do not shy away from asking your teen directly if they are using drugs. An open and honest dialogue is that best way to get your teen to share with you what is going on.

Seeking treatment for your teen’s MDMA addiction 

Ecstasy is considered a Schedule I controlled substance per the United States Department of Justice. These substances are what the government has identified as having:

  • High potential for misuse and abuse
  • No currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States
  • Lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision

Ecstasy’s effects occur the way that they do because the drug interacts with the brain’s ability to create and process serotonin. Serotonin is the chemical that creates feelings of happiness and pleasure, but also aggression and a high sensitivity to pain. Deficiencies in serotonin have been associated with many adverse effects, the most serious generally being depression. And while many believe that ecstasy is not addicting, other research has indicated that it is. 

Many factors will be considered when parents seek treatment for their teen’s MDMA addiction. The individual’s age, the nature and severity of the drug abuse or addiction, and the presence of co-occurring conditions will all be taken into advisement by your teen’s doctor. In many cases, treatment for ecstasy abuse or addition will include outpatient therapy, participation in a 12-Step support group, partial hospitalization, or residential treatment as an adolescent treatment center such as Hillcrest. 

Treatment for ecstasy addiction may include one or more of the following therapies and techniques:

  • Individual therapy combined with group therapy
  • Family therapy with your teen, siblings, and both teen’s parents (whenever possible)
  • 12-step education 
  • Instruction on relapse-prevention
  • Biofeedback & Neurofeedback
  • Medication management
  • Anger management
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Tips for parents of teen’s in residential treatment 

Pills | MDMA Addiction | Hillcrest

If it is determined that residential treatment is best for your teen, this may feel like a blessing and a curse. No parent ever wants their child to need help such as this, but sometimes, despite our best of intentions, peer pressure, biological, and other environmental factors can guide a teen to make poor decisions. As parents, we can’t beat ourselves up, because more than ever, our teen needs us to be strong and supportive.

During the time that your teen is in treatment, consider that there are steps that you can take to help get your through this difficult time while your teen works to achieve sobriety. During treatment, your child will develop skills and coping techniques to help them recover from their addiction. While you may think you know how they should handle situations that could trigger a relapse, parents must understand that every teen is different. Though your instincts might feel like they are right on, what works for you might not work for your teen. This is their life, and the strategies and techniques that your teen learns while in treatment will be personalized to them, based on their particular needs.

After discharge from residential treatment, your teen may or may not want to share with you everything that they went through. Other teens won’t be ready to talk, or at least not for quite some time. Treatment can take a lot out of your teen, and they may determine that they only want to share their related feelings during support group meetings or with their counselor. 

The truth is that with recovery, nothing is really set in stone. Strategies and coping mechanisms will change over time, and so too will the ways in which your teen will need your support. So, consider these tips to help your teen get through the MDMA addiction recovery and post-recovery process as successfully as possible.

  1. Manage your expectations. Recovery will not happen overnight. Your teen’s addiction took time, and their recovery will likely take longer. And it will take time for your teen to bring balance to their life.
  2. Practice patience. Your child may relapse, and they may resist treatment. This will not be unusual. And, it also will not be unusual for your teen to seem to be moving forward for several days, and then experience a significant step back. This is all part of the process and part of the journey to achieving sobriety. Be patients and be prepared for these swings and get used to the idea that a workable, sustainable set of coping skills may take an exceptional amount of time to develop. As a parent, one of the best things you can do is to demonstrate patience and understanding of what your teen is going through. Remember too that they will need to feel supported if they have any hope of reshaping their life. 
  3. Educate yourself. Parents should engage in frequent dialogue with the staff at your teen’s treatment facility, not only to stay up to date on your teen’s progress but also for access to resource material that can help you to understand your teen’s journey better. Taking the time to learn about the treatment your child is receiving will put you in a better position to help them when they return home and need you for ongoing support.
  4. Engage yourself in the treatment. Familial involvement in your teen’s recovery will lead to more positive treatment outcomes for teenagers struggling with their MDMA addiction. And, any reputable treatment centers will encourage, if not require family participation. Parents will be asked to attend group therapy sessions with their teen. They will also be asked to participate in group therapy sessions without their teen but with other families going through your similar experience. You may even be guided to seek out incremental support groups for families of drug addicts. Participate to the extent you’re able while your teen is in treatment and after. This will provide you the support you need, but will help to prepare you for what your teen will need when they are back under your roof.
  5. Take care of you. Most parents will go into fight or flight mode when their teen is battling an addiction, and that fight mode can be absolutely exhausting. That said, it is absolutely critical that parents take care of themselves through the process. When a teen enters treatment, and parents start to participate in their own support groups, in many cases, parents start to grow and learn about themselves as well. For many parents of teens with MDMA addiction, this can mean learning to handle the anxiety that the parent is experiencing while their teen is away from home and under the care of someone else. If it is in your parental nature to worry, then it is important that you participate in stress-relieving activities so that you can remain supportive. Parents who do not take the time to take care of themselves can actually make the recovery process more difficult. 

MDMA addiction recovery is ongoing 

Parents and family members of a teen that is working through their MDMA addiction and aiming for recovery need to understand that therapy is not a one and done type of operation. Your teen will need ongoing support, even if it seems that they are fine. Your teen will need you to be present and engaged at each step of the way. And though they may balk at your attempts to help, your teen will often benefit behind the scenes when they know that they are loved and respected by their parents. So even when your teen seems to dismiss your offers to help, remember that you need to stay engaged as an active participant in their life and recovery. 

Recovery will put you on parallel paths with your teen, but you will take these paths independently from one another. This is to be expected. Parents should make sure that when their child falls, they are there to help pick up the pieces. And an engaged parent will notice when a child’s recovery starts to crumble. 

If you are interested in seeking additional support beyond what your teen’s treatment center has to offer, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can be a great resource. SAMHSA has a variety of resources available for families that are dealing with addiction and recovery. Their online services are available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, and their phone lines are monitored all the time as well. Sometimes, parents just need an additional resource, and parents should never hesitate to reach out for further assistance.

Supporting a teen through recovery is not easy. But educating yourself and identifying your own healthy support system can mean the difference between your ability to help your child, or not. Reach out to Hillcrest ATC in order to find out how our facility can help your teen break free from MDMA addiction!


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