Club Drugs: Ecstasy
Known as "the party drug," Ecstasy is both a stimulant and a hallucinogen, and its effects are potentially life-threatening. Because it is inexpensive and easily accessible, Ecstasy is gaining in popularity.
What Is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy is the street name for methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), a chemical substance that combines methamphetamines with hallucinogenic properties. It is also known as XTC, Adam, Clarity, and Lover's Speed.
Ecstasy is usually taken in pill form. Some manufacturers of the drug package it in capsules or generic tablets to imitate prescription drugs. Among the variations of the drug is a new substance, Herbal Ecstasy, that is composed of ephedrine (ma huang) or pseudoephedrine and caffeine from the kola nut. Sold in tablet form, this drug may cause permanent brain damage and death.
What Are the Effects of Ecstasy?
Ecstasy exerts its effects by altering serotonin levels in the brain. Researchers have found that chronic use can lead to long-term or permanent damage to those parts of the brain critical to thought, memory, and pleasure.
Ecstasy produces immediate effects, which last for 4-6 hours. These include feelings of euphoria, enhanced mental and emotional clarity, and sensations of lightness and floating. In addition to these "feel good" effects, Ecstasy can cause many unpleasant and potentially dangerous psychologic effects which can last for weeks after use of the drug. These effects include the following:
- Sleep problems
- Severe anxiety and paranoia
- Drug craving
- Violent, irrational behavior
People who take Ecstasy at rave parties or clubs are at risk of ]]>dehydration]]> , hyperthermia (dangerously high body temperature), and heart or ]]>kidney failure]]> , any of which can lead to death. These effects occur because the drug's stimulant action allows a user to dance for long periods of time; this prolonged exertion combined with the hot, crowded atmosphere of rave parties and clubs can cause dehydration and a dangerously high body temperature.
Other physical effects of Ecstasy include the following:
- Muscle tension
- Involuntary teeth clenching
- Blurred vision
- Trembling or shaking
- Rapid eye movement
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Loss of control over voluntary body movements
- Decreased appetite
In addition to the psychologic and physical effects, another danger with Ecstasy is that other drugs may be added as adulterants, without the user knowing. There have been reports of heroin and methamphetamine being added to Ecstasy, which can have dangerous effects.
Partnership for a Drug-Free America
The Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration
National Institute on Drug Abuse
MDMA (Ecstasy). Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse.
Available at: http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/factsht/
Accessed September 19, 2003.
Last reviewed September 2003 by ]]>Richard Glickman-Simon, MD]]>
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