What Leads to a Party Drug Overdose?

party drug overdose

Party drugs, made popular through all night raves, large concert festivals, and open parties continue to make news on a regular basis. For a couple of decades now, synthetic drugs such as MDMA, also known as Molly or ecstasy have been associated with party drug overdoses and emergency room visits. Regardless, this synthetic amphetamine remains popular among partygoers because it has both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties, inducing a sense of increased energy and euphoria. 

Fatal overdoses on MDMA are rare, but overdosing can cause serious and even life-threatening health consequences. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hyperthermia
  • Involuntary jaw clenching
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures
  • Panic attacks
  • Reduced heart pumping efficiency

Because ecstasy is habit-forming, there are also adverse effects caused by regular MDMA use. This includes trouble concentrating, impulsivity, heart problems, restless leg syndrome, muscle and joint stiffness, sleep disturbances, depression, and high-risk sexual behaviors.

While MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) remains the most common type of party drug, recent party drug overdoses in three states have demonstrated that lethal drugs are entering the party drug scene. In a period of two weeks this fall, deaths among partygoers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York involved fentanyl-tainted cocaine. A total of 18 people died after ingesting the substance while attending parties. Fentanyl is the potent synthetic opioid that is being found in illicit drugs such as heroin, prescription opioids purchased on the street or online, methamphetamine, and cocaine. In most cases, the individual partaking of the drugs has no knowledge of the fentanyl ingredient.

What Leads to a Party Drug Overdose?

Most of the people who experience a party drug overdose are young adults using the drugs recreationally to achieve an altered state. They may believe that the event they are attending will be enhanced by the increased sensory perception provided by the drugs. MDMA can cause someone to become more introverted and friendly in social situations, such as parties.

The drugs themselves appear to look like candy. Sporting pastel coloring and cute graphic imprints, the pills look harmless. Partygoers may stack three pills together and take them all at once, potentially taking a toxic dosage, such as in excess of 200mg. Also, teens and young adults may obtain the drugs from sketchy sources or the street, and not be aware that the drugs they are buying are not pure but may contain dangerous toxic substances. Once the drug is being metabolized in the body, the toxic byproducts can interfere with metabolization and can produce high blood pressure. In 2011, over 22,000 emergency room visits involved MDMA, according to the CDC’s DAWN Patrol report.

Fentanyl-related Party Drug Overdoses

With the proliferation of fentanyl coming in from sources like China and Mexico, the stakes are much higher now when young people decide to engage in illicit drug use at parties or festivals. Too often the drugs that they purchase unknowingly contain this deadly drug. The party drug they purchase may appear to be cocaine, as having a white powdery appearance. Sadly, lives are being lost due to the tainted drugs.

Recently in Seattle, Washington, two teen boys died within two months of each other after having ingested pills that they thought were oxycodone. Oxy has long been a staple at teen parties, often stolen from a parent’s medicine cabinet and then provided to guests as a recreational drug. These boys had bought the counterfeit pills from yet unidentified sources, as the cases are still under investigation.

In the recent party deaths in Pittsburgh, three died after purchasing what they believed was cocaine. The dealer, Peter Rene Sanchez Montalvo, was charged with alleged illegal distribution of a controlled substance, which was fentanyl. As a result, three people died and four were hospitalized. These fatalities were followed by ten deaths in Columbus, Ohio, and five deaths in New York, although it isn’t clear if they were connected to the same tainted cocaine batch as the Pittsburgh incident.

Are Party Drugs Addictive?

One of the effects of using party drugs like MDMA is the desire to re-experience the high. This leads to addictive behaviors, where the individual strives to revisit the feelings of euphoria, increased self-confidence, and warm, fuzzy empathy. Just as with any other drug that alters the natural state, MDMA interferes with the brain’s pleasure and reward pathways, which alters dopamine production. Over time, tolerance to the effects of the drug increase, leading the individual to take the drug more often or at higher doses.

Individuals will know they have acquired an MDMA dependency when they experience withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the drug, which emerge 12 hours after the last MDMA dose. The withdrawal symptoms experienced are primarily psychological, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Memory problems
  • Lack of motor control
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mental confusion
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Difficulty concentrating

When it becomes clear that the individual has become addicted to these dangerous synthetic drugs it is necessary for them to engage with an addiction recovery program that will guide them through detox and treatment.

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Treatment for MDMA, Cocaine, and Opioid Addiction

When a substance use disorder has developed involving party drugs, such as MDMA, cocaine, or prescription opioids, it is essential to obtain professional treatment. An effective addiction recovery program will utilize a variety of treatment elements that are designed to work together to help individuals overcome the substance use disorder and transition to a new sober lifestyle. While every rehab will have its own focus and philosophy, most will offer most of the following treatment modalities:

Detox and Withdrawal: In many cases, the individual has developed a chemical dependency to the party drug of choice. When this is the case, the first step in recovery will involve the detox and withdrawal phase. The length of detox and the severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on the substance itself, how long the individual has been misusing the substance, and whether there are multiple substances involved. Detox can take as little as a few days up to a few weeks. Detox medical interventions will help minimize discomfort.

Evidence-based therapies: These therapies are scientifically studied modalities that demonstrated statistically significant results. Clients will engage in the therapy best suited to their own specific needs and underlying factors. The evidence-based therapies help the client to change their behaviors by guiding them toward recognizing disordered thinking and behavioral responses that fueled the drug abuse. Some examples of evidence-base therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and contingency management.

Group sessions. Peer interaction in group therapy sessions is an essential treatment element in rehab. These small group sessions offer the participants a supportive space where they can share their personal experiences within a safe, non-judgmental setting. A clinician guides the topics of discussion and facilitates dialogue. Group therapy offers an excellent source of peer support.

Medication-assisted treatment. Mounting evidence supports the use of Suboxone and naloxone for supporting opioid addiction recovery. MAT should only be prescribed along with ongoing outpatient treatment and monitoring. 

Recovery classes. Learning about how addiction happens, how party drugs affect the brain, and how to avoid relapse are helpful in teaching clients how powerfully these drugs impact the brain. Recovery tools, such as new coping skills and better communication techniques, can equip the newly sober individual when encountering challenges in recovery.

Holistic activities. The mind-body connection is important to address in recovery. Learning techniques that help to regulate stress and anxiety are essential coping tools to use while in treatment, and to be incorporated into life after rehab. These activities might include mindfulness, yoga, massage, acupuncture, deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, aromatherapy, and art therapy.

Beyond Rehab to Aftercare

Too many leave rehab and are not fully prepared to stand strong when encountering triggers that might result in relapse. Addiction recovery takes time—it is truly a lifelong pursuit. Rehab should be considered just the first step on the recovery continuum, and careful attention should be paid to aftercare planning.

It is not reasonable to expect someone in early recovery from addiction or chemical dependence to be good to go upon discharge from rehab. It takes time and practice to establish new healthy thought-behavior patterns. For the best shot at recovery success, a solid aftercare plan might include:

  • Sober living. Transitional housing is an excellent way to gradually return to one’s home community after rehab. Sober living housing provides the needed time to stabilize sobriety while also practicing new coping skills within a safe, supportive, and substance-free living space.
  • Outpatient services. Outpatient therapy sessions, both individual and group formats, provide an excellent source of ongoing support. In early recovery it is common to hit rough patches that might threaten sobriety. Other outpatient services might include job searching preparation or legal services.
  • Recovery group meetings. Recovery communities, such as SMART Recovery or A.A., offer an additional layer of social support. These groups provide a space to discuss challenges in recovery and to make new friendships in sobriety.

Solutions 4 Recovery Provides Addiction Recovery Services in Orange County, California

Solutions 4 Recovery is a luxury rehab located in a Southern California beach community. The recovery programs features pet friendly accommodations, couples rehab, dual diagnosis treatment, and a long list of amenities to help make the treatment journey as comfortable and fulfilling as possible. For more information about getting help for a party drug addiction, please contact Capo by the Sea today at (888) 417-1874.