Ecstasy, also called MDMA, is commonly used along with alcohol at parties and clubs. Both a stimulant and a hallucinogen, ecstasy has an effect that somewhat counteracts the depressant nature of alcohol.
Ecstasy produces a euphoric feeling paired with intensified sensory perception, while alcohol provides a feeling of relaxation. The stimulant and depressant characteristics of these drugs are thought to balance each other, producing an overall sense of well-being.
After using ecstasy, people often experience feelings of emotional closeness, making them relate to others with greater empathy and extroversion. Ecstasy lowers a person’s inhibitions, making social interactions easier.
Ecstasy can also produce unpleasant physical effects, such as:
- jaw clenching or teeth grinding
- detachment (depersonalization)
- scattered thoughts
- restless legs
- hot flashes or chills
Alcohol has a comparable effect in reducing social anxiety and causes similar symptoms. Both substances may lead to memory loss (blackout or amnesia) if used in excess.
As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol slows the functioning of the brain and body, causing a slow reaction time. This impairs a person’s ability to perform tasks that require close attention.
Other effects that result from alcohol consumption are:
- loss of coordination and balance
- lowered inhibitions
- slurred speech
- blurred vision
When a person uses ecstasy and alcohol together, they are more likely to experience these negative effects, and several other unique consequences may arise.
When a person combines ecstasy and alcohol, their inhibitions are lowered but they do not feel as drunk. This is dangerous because it gives them the impression that they are not as impaired as they actually are. It can lead them to do irresponsible things, like driving under the influence.
Lowered inhibitions and increased feelings of emotional connection may also lead to unsafe sexual behavior, like unprotected sex with a stranger. This sort of behavior raises a person’s risk of contracting diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C.
If someone doesn’t realize how drunk they are because ecstasy distorts their perception, they may continue to consume alcohol, not realizing when they’ve had enough. This not only increases the risk of unsafe behavior and blackout but also may result in alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol poisoning is a serious condition with symptoms like vomiting, seizures, severely slowed breathing, dangerously low body temperature, and loss of consciousness. Without medical attention, it may result in coma or death.
Overheating And Overdose
Ecstasy makes it difficult for the body to regulate temperature. When taken in high doses or in warm environments, such as a club or house filled with people, this may lead to hyperthermia (overheating). This condition can cause muscular breakdown or sodium imbalance that may result in kidney failure or brain swelling. Either result can be life-threatening.
Some people take overlapping doses to make the high last longer. This can cause the drug to build up in someone’s system. Consuming alcohol in addition to this increases the risk of hyperthermia and overdose.
Ecstasy and alcohol are both linked to dehydration. This is, in part, because of physical reactions to the substances. The surge in energy from ecstasy means more movement (and more sweat). Alcohol increases urination, ridding the body of water more quickly.
Dehydration can contribute to an unpleasant hangover. It may also cause someone to drink excessive amounts of fluids. Ecstasy causes the body to retain fluids, so too much hydration may lead to electrolyte imbalance and brain swelling. This can cause brain damage, coma, or death.
Ecstasy is often found to be laced with other substances, such as cough medicine, synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”), and cocaine. These drugs cause additional complications when combined with alcohol.
Cocaine mixed with alcohol, for example, produces a toxic substance called cocaethylene, which is extremely dangerous to the human body. Laced ecstasy poses a higher risk of overdose, as the substance may be stronger than a person expects.
Long-Term Effects Of Using Ecstasy With Alcohol
Ecstasy causes the brain to produce greater amounts of serotonin, the chemical responsible for managing mood, sleep, pain, and appetite. The drug also prevents the brain from reabsorbing this chemical, allowing a surplus that causes a surge in pleasurable feelings.
After someone takes ecstasy, their brain no longer has reserves of serotonin to keep them calm and happy. When the ecstasy wears off, they are left with extremely low serotonin levels, making them feel depressed. This may last for days after taking the drug.
Alcohol also stimulates serotonin release and increases the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which maintains calm in the brain. Long-term, heavy alcohol use decreases GABA receptors, making it difficult for the brain to self-regulate. While some people drink alcohol to reduce anxiety, it can actually harm the brain’s ability to deal with stress.
With prolonged use of both ecstasy and alcohol, a person may experience long-term cognitive impairments. This may include difficulty learning new things, creating new memories, or recalling the past. Brain damage may be reversed if a person stops using ecstasy and alcohol, but may also be permanent.
Both ecstasy and alcohol can take a toll on the heart as well and may cause high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, inflammation, and heart attack. Using these substances at the same time puts even more stress on the heart.
Treatment For Ecstasy And Alcohol Abuse
Abusing ecstasy can lead to serious health issues, especially when it is combined with alcohol. This can have potentially fatal consequences, and long-term use may cause irreversible damage. Addiction treatment programs work to address issues surrounding substance abuse and help an individual make healthier choices.
Many treatment programs deal with polysubstance abuse. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be used for alcohol addiction in combination with a variety of treatment methods, such as counseling, support groups, and behavioral therapy. The best treatment programs are customized to individual needs to ensure a complete and lasting recovery.
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