Ecstasy: Good-bye Fun... Hello Depression
Ecstasy is a synthetic drug that,
according its proponents, produces a relaxed, euphoric state. Sensations are enhanced,
music sounds better, and feelings of understanding people, getting along in groups,
and general well-being are claimed to occur. Most users report that it makes them
feel happy and social.
So, no problem, right? Wrong. Recently, a researcher
at the University of Toronto School of Medicine in Canada found severe neurological
damage in a 26-year old man who'd been using Ecstasy over a nine-year period.
In fact, when the researchers examined his brain, they found reduced levels of
serotonin, the brain chemical controlling moods, sleep, pain, sexual activity
and violent behavior, less than 50 to 80% of what non-users have.
people using Ecstasy think it will make them feel good, they often have little
knowledge about the drug they are using, including whether the drug has been changed
or mixed with something even more harmful.
it is often created in illegal labs, Ecstasy can be mixed with PCP, methamphetamine,
acid or DXM, dextromethorphan, a legal drug found in over-the-counter cough suppressants.
Large doses of DXM can cause stomach pain, cramping, dizziness, vomiting and seizures.
Ecstasy users are likely to consider the drug to not be a big deal. After
all, how harmful could something called Ecstasy be?
can cause depression, anxiety and paranoia, according to the National Institute
on Drug Abuse (NIDA). It also may increase the heart rate and raise the body's
blood pressure and cause faintness, chills, or sweating. Some studies have shown
that Ecstasy can cause long-term brain damage and memory impairment.
is not just being used by ravers and club kids, like many people think. It has
recently begun to appear all over the country and outside of clubs. It can be
extremely dangerous in high doses and can cause a marked increase in body temperature
leading to muscle breakdown. According to NIDA, kidney and cardiovascular system
failure have been reported in some fatal cases at raves.
Pills Stamped with Pokemon Character
Associated Press-February 22, 2001
character, Pikachu, has been stamped on Ecstasy pills laced with PCP found in
northern Virginia. Using a popular character on pills could be a sign that drug
dealers are marketing to kids in the Pokemon age group.
Commissioner of U.S. Customs
Updated Message to Parents:
The Growing Ecstasy Threat
synthetic drug Ecstasy, also known by its chemical abbreviation MDMA, has emerged
as a major concern for U.S. law enforcement. This is due both to the health risks
Ecstasy poses to those who frequently use it, and because of the drug.s increasing
ties to criminal smuggling groups.
the last several years, the U.S. Customs Service has seized Ecstasy in record
numbers from travelers, cargo, and mail packages entering America. In 1999, Customs
seized 3.5 million Ecstasy tablets. That figure jumped to 9.3 million tablets
in 2000. This year to date, Customs has seized more than 4 million Ecstasy tablets.
the past, Ecstasy was most commonly associated with the big city club scene and
popular all-night dance parties known as "raves." This is no longer
the case. Ecstasy use has spread to bars, college campuses, and high schools and
junior high schools across the country. What began primarily as an urban threat
has now become a national crisis.
the same time, violent crime related to the illegal Ecstasy trade is on the rise.
While the level of violence associated with Ecstasy trafficking has not yet reached
the same proportions as the cocaine or heroin trade, it will only grow. Demand
for Ecstasy is surging in the United States and the worst elements of the criminal
underworld are aggressively competing for the profits.
response to these alarming trends, Customs has taken several important measures.
First, we established an Ecstasy Task Force in Washington, D.C. to lead our investigative
and counter-smuggling efforts. The Ecstasy Task Force is responsible for gathering
daily intelligence on Ecstasy smuggling and coordinating Customs. response
with other law enforcement agencies. Customs has also trained 106 drug-detecting
dogs to alert to Ecstasy and stationed them airports and mail and cargo facilities
across the country.
these measures will help us to combat the rising tide of Ecstasy, we must again
appeal to the public, especially parents, to help us in this fight. Don.t
be fooled by what some describe as the minimal side effects of the drug. Ecstasy
has been classified as a Schedule I drug, placing it in the same category as drugs
with no medicinal purpose such as heroin and LSD. In addition, a growing body
of medical research continues to point to the risks of irreversible brain damage
among Ecstasy users.
the end, our best defense is less demand. Take a moment to familiarize yourself
with the symptoms of Ecstasy. Educate your child about the risks associated with
the use of this and other drugs. And if you become aware of any smuggling activity,
please report it to U.S. Customs at 1-800-BE ALERT.
Agony of Ecstasy
by Mary Ann Swissler
Steven Kish of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto compared
the brain tissue of a 26-year-old chronic ecstasy user who'd overdosed with 11
non-drug users. Roughly 50 to 80 percent of the neurotransmitter known as serotonin
in the overdose victim's brain was depleted, Kish found. No noticeable decreases
were found in the control group.
is the first study to show that this drug can deplete the level of serotonin in
humans," Kish said. About 15 human studies have found that cognition was
reduced with use of the drug, although serotonin was not one of the substances
mentioned, he said.
is an important neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, usually for
the better, and controlling some thought processes.
is considered an "empathic" drug, with users reporting a heightened
sense of euphoria and desire to socialize. But when the serotonin runs out, depression
sets in. Cognition, thought processes including memory, pain perception, sleep,
and appetite all are affected.
medical word for ecstasy, methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, is structurally
related to the hallucinogen mescaline and the stimulant amphetamine. Antidepressants
act on the serotonin system to elevate lower amounts of serotonin in depressed
probably explains why ecstasy users are depressed or unhappy the day after they
use it," Kish said.
Kish's study, the serotonin depletion was sometimes reversible, but sometimes
permanent damage was observed, depending on which area of the brain was being
scrutinized. He cautioned that more research is needed, since "we can make
no statement on brain damage."
study is significant because it conclusively points to consequences in the human
brain -. a toll that drug educators can use when speaking at schools, said
researcher Karen Borell of John Hopkins University. "I think it holds promise
for prevention. It seems to be the No. 1 drug of choice, especially among the
younger population," she said.
Kish stated in the latest issue of Neurology, "We recognize that conclusions
based on a single case can only be tentative. However, our limited data suggest
that depletion of serotonin might occur in the brain of some users of the drug
and therefore therapeutic efforts to normalize levels of the neurotransmitter
might address some of the behavioral problems occurring during drug withdrawal."
mother of Joe Stephens, the man whose brain was autopsied for Kish's study, said
the problem is, "The kids will admit that after a weekend of using ecstasy
they are depressed but they don't put it together with the ecstasy."
Cooper, of Orlando, Florida found the body of her son in 1996. She now belongs
to the group Families Against Drugs.
only does it damage cells, it produces functional consequences, including a decline
in your memory performance," Borell said, adding that psychiatric conditions
such as depression and sleep disturbances almost always set in.
calls ecstasy the "up-and-coming drug" worldwide: 2.3 percent of college
students and 4.3 percent of people ages 19 to 28 reported using it at least once
in the last year. Overall, 3.4 million Americans at least 12 years old had used
ecstasy at least once during their lifetime, according to the 1998 National Household
Survey on Drug Abuse survey.
Toronto, an average of one ecstasy-related death is now reported per month, Kish
said. This is up from zero deaths per month in 1997. Forty percent of the deaths
in Toronto result from use at rave clubs. "We have a terrible problem with
ecstasy use here," he said.
room visits and mortality rates are hard to measure, Borell said. "Things
that go along with taking the drug, not the drug itself, causes the overdose.
Dehydration seems to be the No. 1 complication, at least at rave clubs."
stressed that the answer is not shutting down all raves. "It's a double-edged
sword. Cops keep trying to close them down but the clubs will just go underground,
they'll go in the woods." At least the clubs keep users visible in the event
of an overdose, she said.