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What is it?

Ecstasy, or MDMA, is a 3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is both a stimulant and a hallucinogenic or psychedelic drug. Ecstasy is a notorious rave and club drug that produces an intense high, unbounded energy, and usually, feelings of happiness. It also increases sensory and sexual pleasure. MDMA is a white powder that is pressed into pastel-colored pills with names like Playboy, bunnies, Nike swoosh, and love, or stamped with smiley faces. MDMA can be addictive and is physically, emotionally, and mentally dangerous.

Slang Terms:

Disco biscuits, E, X, XTC, Adam, hug, beans, love drug, clarity

How is it used?

MDMA can be taken in pill form or dissolved in liquid and swallowed. It is often hidden in candy containers. It is sometimes combined with other drugs, such as ephedrine or heroin. The pills may also contain dangerous additive chemicals. Other drugs, such as the MDMA parent drug MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine) may actually be sold as ecstasy and can be fatal. The experience of using is called a roll or trip.

Signs of usage:

While on a roll or trip, the user is disassociated with reality, including time and perception. After a trip, there may be severe anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and lasting hallucinations.

Effects of usage:

Psychological effects include a feeling of intense pleasure in tactile and sensory perceptions. Sexual pleasure is elevated. An enhanced sense of self-confidence is usually accompanied by very high energy. Users feel they can dance all night. MDMA affects the brain chemical serotonin, which is a messenger to other neurons. The serotonin system plays a vital role in the regulation of moods, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and pain. When the drug is taken, serotonin is delivered in a huge, “wow” rush. Teeth clenching and grinding as well as jaw tension is common. To prevent this, users often use infant pacifiers. In higher doses, the drug raises the body’s core temperature. At club parties there is often a cooled “chill-out” room for this reason. Users often become dehydrated. Increased heart rate and blood pressure also can result from use.

How long do the effects last?

The effects of MDMA can last 4 to 6 hours, with a gradual withdrawal of up to 5 hours.

Effects of withdrawal:

A disconnection with reality may last much longer than 4 to 6 hours. Because MDMA is a stimulant, withdrawal brings feelings of anxiety, and can cause depression, trouble concentrating, nausea, confusion, involuntary jaw clenching, and erratic sleep. At least 60 percent of users have been reported to experience withdrawal symptoms such as these, and symptoms can last weeks.

Adverse reactions:

Besides extreme levels of anxiety, fatigue, and depression, there are dangerous physical risks associated with MDMA. Severe dehydration can occur with extended physical activity while taking MDMA, as well as hyperthermia, when the body temperature rises dramatically. This can actually lead to heatstroke, kidney, liver and cardiovascular failure, and death. Fatalities can also result when taken with other drugs, including prescription antidepressants. In the past few years, there have been cases of users being unable to disengage from the psychotic state induced by the drug. Users are also at high risk for sexual assault.

Effects of prolonged usage:

Memory and cognitive loss has been shown to result from prolonged use. Health problems include liver and kidney damage. Long-term users exhibit behavioral and emotional problems, and may lose interest in everyday life and school.

Usage by youth:

MDMA is primarily used by young people in social settings, such as underground rave, club, or dance parties. The use of hallucinogens as a class is most prevalent among those aged 18 to 25 (1.8 percent of the population). Four percent of eighth graders have used hallucinogens; 7.8 percent of tenth graders and 1.8 percent of high school seniors have tried them.

Recent Developments:

Unfortunately, many young people believe MDMA is a safe club drug. The parties are broadly advertised and promotions even insinuate that X or E will be available. In the last few years, the distribution of the drug has moved into homes and other communitywide settings, including large parties in private homes. The Community Epidemiology Group reports increased usage among African-American and Hispanic groups. So-called club drugs are also available on the Internet, along with advice from drug dealers on how to “safely” take the drugs.

Information provided by Dr. Barbara A. Krantz, Chief Medical Officer at the Hanley Center

First Check Diagnostics, LLC is offering these resources for informational purposes only, and the Hanley Center is no way affiliated with any of the entities that provide the resources.