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The Facts Behind Ecstasy Use

Ecstasy use, gained its popularity in the 1980's, mostly in the clubs. At that time, they were called "raves". Now even though it is still primarily used by young white Caucasians, other cultures and races are now using it more regularly as well. Ecstasy is commonly called E, the love drug, Adam, X, XTC. Most users of MDMA use it on a recreational basis, although there have been reports of a man using ecstasy over 40,000 times. This is not the "average" use though.

MDMA (3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and a hallucinogen very similar in structure to mescaline. Ecstasy primarily affects the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin affects mood, aggression, and sexual feelings. There have been numerous studies about the dangers of ecstasy, and whether or not this drug has addictive properties. There have been several studies showing that chronic users of MDMA do have withdrawal symptoms, confirming the belief that ecstasy is addictive. These symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, aggression, impulsiveness, sleep disturbances, thirst and memory loss.

There are possible physical side effects from using MDMA. They are muscle cramping, blurred vision, dehydration, high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney failure, sweating chills and nausea. One of the biggest hazards with MDMA is the rise in body temperature (hyperthermia). This has led to numerous deaths. Most MDMA users understand that they need to keep their body well hydrated by drinking water, to avoid this causality. There have been reports of clubs shutting off the water in the bathrooms so that their clients would have to buy the bottled water at ten times the cost. Symptoms of overdose of MDMA include seizures, fainting, panic attacks, high blood pressure and loss of consciousness. Using ecstasy repeatedly in short intervals can cause an overdose. This is due to the fact that MDMA can interfere with it's own metabolism and reach potentially fatal levels.

Other drugs that are sold as ecstasy have also led to numerous fatalities. These drugs are MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine); this is the "parent" drug of MDMA, and PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine). Particularly with PMA, there is an increased risk of dying from hyperthermia. Some people who have died from PMA, believing that it was MDMA have reached temperatures of 108 degrees. The other risks involved with MDMA, as with any other illegal drug, is that sometimes there are things added to the MDMA. Chemical reports of MDMA sold on the street have shown to also have properties of caffeine, cocaine, cough suppressants, ketamine and ephedrine. These extra additives place the MDMA user at higher physical risk.

One of the more disturbing facts of ecstasy is the numerous reports that ecstasy can cause brain damage. There have been studies done on rats, mice etc. that have shown that high doses of MDMA can cause irreversible brain damage. There have also been studies completed on habitual MDMA users. In 1998, the National Institute of Mental Health studied habitual MDMA users that have not used MDMA for years. They found that these users had suffered damage to portions of the brain that regulate critical functions such as learning, sleep and emotion.

Every drug that is available whether it be prescription, over the counter or illegal, the one thing they all have in common is side effects. The side effects with ecstasy can lead to irreversible brain damage, long lasting depression and anxiety. In the worst cases, death can result. As a parent, it is important to talk to your kids about drugs. Listen to them, share your hopes and dreams with them, and support them. They are our future.

By Wendy McLellan MA, LCDPII


Wendy McLellan MA, LCDPII is a licensed mental health and substance abuse counselor, with more than sixteen years of experience. She has recently devoted time to the efforts of in their goal to provide parental internet safety tools and resources to the public.
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