Contributed by StartYourRecovery.org
Reviewed by Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS
StartYourRecovery.org (SYR) provides helpful information for people who are dealing with substance use issues — and their family members, friends, and co-workers, too. SYR knows that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges faced by those who misuse alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs, or other substances, and they aim to break through the clutter to help people at any stage of recovery.
MDMA — nicknamed ecstasy or molly — has a reputation of being relatively safe and even therapeutic.1,2,3 But the truth is that this illicit “party drug” can be dangerous.4
If you or a loved one is experiencing an eating disorder and using MDMA, know that help is available, and treatment works.
What is MDMA?
MDMA, which is short for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, has stimulant and hallucinogenic effects that can start within 30 minutes and last up to six hours.5,6,7 Known as a “party” or “club” drug, MDMA can make people feel alert, energetic, happy, and close with others. It can also distort senses, suppress appetite, and cause the body to dangerously overheat.5,8
Taking ecstasy or molly frequently, in high doses, or with alcohol or other drugs can cause serious physical and mental health problems and lead to a substance use disorder.8,9 And ecstasy or molly products rarely contain pure MDMA alone. If they are laced with fentanyl or other opioids, these drugs can be deadly. If you take SSRIs, a class of commonly prescribed antidepressants, using MDMA can cause serotonin syndrome, which is a medical emergency.10
Link Between Eating Disorders and MDMA
Both eating disorders and opioid use disorder can be serious and even lethal.11,12,13,14 Substance misuse may lead to an eating disorder, and an eating disorder may lead to substance misuse. People who try risky weight-loss practices may be at greater risk of misusing ecstasy and other substances.
Eating and substance use disorders share some common risk factors, such as:12,18,19,20
- Family history of these or other mental illnesses.
- Low self-esteem or a susceptibility to social pressures.
- Trauma and adverse life experiences.
- Genetic predispositions.
Researchers are studying whether MDMA, combined with clinical supervision and behavioral therapy, can help treat eating disorders.21 However, MDMA has not at this time been approved as a treatment for eating disorders. Studies in human subjects are limited. If you are considering taking MDMA and you have an eating disorder, it is important to seek advice from a trained clinician who can ensure you are fully aware of potential risks.
Can You Overdose on MDMA?
Use of crystal MDMA or other forms of pure MDMA rarely leads to fatal overdoses.22 But the illicit form of the drug is not always “pure”: MDMA products are often unknowingly laced with other substances, including fentanyl, which carries a high risk of overdose death.22,23
Those who use MDMA should carry fentanyl test strips, to test for the presence of this harmful opioid in their MDMA, and naloxone, to reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone, known by brand names like Narcan and RiVive, is an over-the-counter medicine that can stop an opioid overdose and save a life.
If you suspect someone is experiencing an opioid overdose:
- Call 911.
- Administer naloxone if available.
- Keep the person awake and lying on their side until first responders arrive.
Find Treatment and Start Your Recovery
Recovery from eating disorders and/or substance use disorders is a personal journey, and there’s no single solution that works for everyone.24
Start by finding a trained health care professional to assess your physical and mental health needs. They then can work with you to create a recovery plan.15 Locate treatment and support near you for eating disorders and substance misuse.
- Learn more about the link between substance use and eating disorders.
- Use the National Eating Disorders Association’s screening tool to help you determine whether it’s time to seek treatment for an eating disorder.
- Get free, confidential help for mental health or substance use disorders anytime by calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).