Ecstasy is a stimulant drug, also known as MDMA, usually consumed in capsule or tablet form. It was first synthesized in 1912 in Germany and was originally intended for medical use. Its use was limited until it became part of the rave and dance culture in the United States in the 1980s. From there, it spread by the end of the decade to nightclubs and raves in the UK and Europe and its use became widespread in the early 1990s. Ecstasy is widely regarded as one of the first of what would come to be known as “designer drugs” because of its association with youth, popular culture and techno music.
While “ecstasy” is the commonly used name, MDMA is its real chemical name. It is often cut with other potentially harmful substances and chemicals before ending up on the street. This is one of the reasons ecstasy can be dangerous, as there is no way to know what exactly is in an ecstasy pill, or how much of the pill is MDMA. Although ecstasy is illegal in many countries, it is believed that 10 to 25 million people worldwide used it at least once in 2008.
Its main effects include increased self-confidence, increased energy, hyperactivity and feelings of compassion for oneself and others. Ecstasy is not technically addictive, as users do not feel an overwhelming physical urge to take it. However, they can develop a tolerance to its effects and will need to take more and more to get the same effect. For this reason, many cases of ecstasy addiction have been reported, especially in people who are generally predisposed to addiction.
Several negative side effects are associated with ecstasy, including depression, fatigue, insomnia, dizziness and inability to concentrate. They appear after the initial effects have worn off and may last, or even become more acute, for several days after ingesting the drug. Ecstasy users are also at significant risk of overdose, especially when the effects of an ecstasy pill take longer than expected to appear and lead to more of the drug. In the worst case scenario, ecstasy overdoses can cause brain damage and death.
Ecstasy is the street form of the pure chemical MDMA, which has often been packaged with potentially harmful chemicals and products. There have even been cases where tablets that appear to be ecstasy contain no trace of MDMA. Because ecstasy is widely considered a disco drug, it is referred to by many street and slang names, such as “E,” “pills,” “X,” “Adam,” “love drug” and “beans. Some of these terms are specific to the U.S., while the U.K. has its own street names such as “mandy”, “brownies” and “Mitsubishis”.
Many other terms are also used for ecstasy, varying from country to country and region to region, and sometimes even from nightclub to nightclub.
The main effects of ecstasy include increased confidence, alertness, hyperactivity and euphoria. The drug can reduce anxiety and aggression, and helps people identify with others and accept themselves. Users report that it can enhance the perception of drug-induced experiences, such as the quality of the music one is listening to, and increases the senses tenfold. The effects of ecstasy take about half an hour to appear after ingestion and can last between 3 and 6 hours.
However, ecstasy is also associated with a variety of negative effects and a bad trip can be a very unpleasant experience. These effects can include an inability to concentrate, loss of appetite, uncontrollable jaw clenching, dry mouth, insomnia and anxiety. Once the effects of the drug wear off, ecstasy users may experience paranoia, dizziness, fatigue, depression and gastrointestinal problems during what is known as the “high,” effects that can last for several days after ingesting the drug.
Activities undertaken under the influence of the drug can usually catch up with the user at this time: for example, pain from excessive jaw clenching, muscle pain from dancing too much and exhaustion.
One of the effects of MDMA is that it prevents the body from producing urine, which can lead to excessive thirst. Some inexperienced users have died after compensating by taking in too much fluid in too little time. Ecstasy users are also at risk of overdose, particularly because of the time between use and the onset of effects.
Ecstasy, especially if used regularly, can also cause psychological disorders and organ failure, although this can sometimes be attributed to the harmful chemicals mixed with MDMA. Deaths resulting from ecstasy ingestion, even in cases of overdose, are relatively rare.
Although the popularity of ecstasy in the late 19th century came largely from the United States, the drug is now mainly manufactured in Europe, particularly in Belgium and the Netherlands. A small portion is believed to be manufactured in the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as in other European countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Spain, Hungary and Poland. Ecstasy is relatively easy to manufacture compared to some other drugs such as heroin and is therefore mostly produced by inexperienced criminal networks, rather than by amateur or professional chemists.
Many people who “cook” ecstasy have learned to do so on their own, which helps explain why ecstasy often contains harmful chemicals and substances used to make the tablets. Reducing the amount of MDMA allows ecstasy to be produced more cheaply. The people who make the drug rarely worry about the effects that the harmful ingredients may have.
Large amounts of ecstasy are produced in small clandestine labs across Europe, but there are known to be larger-scale industrial sites, mostly in Belgium and the Netherlands, where over 90% of U.S. ecstasy is produced. The ecstasy is smuggled abroad in parcels or carried by the smugglers themselves.
However, more and more ecstasy labs are being discovered in the U.S., with raw MDMA being smuggled into the country and processed into tablets before being sold on the street.
Ecstasy manufacture requires very little specialized equipment and instructions on how to do it are easily found in books and on the Internet, making it within the reach of almost anyone with criminal or other intentions. And yet, ecstasy production in the United States pales in comparison to Europe.
It is generally more economically attractive to import the drug into the United States than to take the considerable risk of trying to manufacture it, because while the equipment required for production is relatively easy to obtain, the ingredients are not. The U.S. crackdown on drugs, and ecstasy in particular, is far more assiduous than in the Netherlands, where the government does not consider ecstasy a threat at all.
The danger inherent in any batch of clandestinely manufactured ecstasy, whether in Europe or the United States, is the lack of a scientific process. Ecstasy labs have been found in basements, attics, mobile homes and warehouses, as well as many other places, so even if no harmful ingredients or substances are added to the drug in a malicious way, they can still end up in the drug by accident due to the conditions under which poor quality products are made.
Safrole, an important ingredient in MDMA, is a substance that occurs naturally in certain trees in Southeast Asia. Although it is used for other purposes, its illegal harvesting could create a future ecstasy supply problem as the ingredient becomes more difficult to obtain. In the United Kingdom, ecstasy use is reported to be declining, partly due to health awareness, but also due to the availability of legal alternatives. In addition, since ecstasy is not considered chemically addictive, other illicit drugs such as amphetamines may be preferred to MDMA.
As a recreational drug, particularly in nightclubs and social settings, ecstasy is generally limited to developed countries, with widespread use in Europe and the United States. However, there is also use in Australia and South Africa. There are an estimated 4.5 million ecstasy users worldwide, and although supply markets and trafficking are primarily limited to Western Europe, there is evidence that ecstasy use is increasing in other parts of Asia and Africa.
FACTS AND STATISTICS
- Ecstasy is the street name for MDMA, a stimulant with a chemical composition similar to methamphetamine.
- MDMA was first synthesized in Germany in 1912, apparently for use in medicine.
- However, its applications were considered limited and despite occasional experiments investigating its potential uses, it was completely ignored for several decades.
- Despite this, research is still being conducted to determine its possible medical applications, namely as a therapeutic aid in psychotherapy. It helps users to open up emotionally, which could help in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.
- It became popular as a recreational drug in the early 1980s in the nightclubs of Dallas,
- USA. Its use spread to Europe over the next decade and it became an integral part of youth, nightclubs and rave culture in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
- Ecstasy is rarely a pure form of MDMA; it is most often mixed with other substances.
- Harmful or toxic chemicals and substances are sometimes added to ecstasy before it is made into tablets, usually to allow manufacturers to maintain stocks of MDMA.
- Because of the criminality inherent in the ecstasy trade, producers often randomly choose the ingredients they add, which can be very dangerous, even deadly, to consumers.
- Ecstasy is not technically addictive, although some users have developed addictions to the drug. It is more of a habit than a physiological craving, with users wanting to relive the same experience.
- Although it has been reported in the press, no cocaine or heroin has ever been found in ecstasy, although it is sometimes mixed with other drugs.
- In 2001, ecstasy was the cause of 5542 emergency room admissions in the United States. This compares to 93064 for heroin, 110512 for cannabis and 193043 for cocaine.
- 16% of students in the United States have tried MDMA.
- According to American and British statistics, the death rate from ecstasy is only 7 per million users, a figure much lower than that of alcohol, which has a death rate of 625 per million users.
- 48 hours after ingestion, only 1% of ecstasy remains in the body, but there can still be side effects, such as depression and fatigue.
- According to a 2009 survey, 2.8 million Americans over the age of 12 had used MDMA in the previous year.
- 760,000 were reported to have used the drug in the month prior to the survey.
Approximately 1.1 million Americans reportedly used ecstasy for the first time in 2009, an increase of about 25% from the previous year.
Since 1996, 200 ecstasy-related deaths have been recorded in the United Kingdom.
The effects of ecstasy take about half an hour to appear and last between 3 and 6 hours. Residual effects can last for several days.
The purity of Australian MDMA ranges from 1% to 85%, with an average of about 34%.
SIGNS OF DEPENDENCE
Ectasy is not chemically addictive, as there is no physical craving for it. However, habitual use can be problematic, both behaviourally and in terms of increased risk of health problems.
The most noticeable signs that a person is under the influence of ecstasy include an increase in self-confidence, euphoria, loss of sensitivity to pain, a permanent clenching of the jaw and an increase in energy, as well as strong feelings of empathy and compassion for others. This is accompanied by a more placid and reflective outlook, with a decrease in aggression and hostility and a sense of self-acceptance and inner peace.
Ecstasy is most commonly found in nightclubs and rave parties and it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish the symptoms of ecstasy use from those of alcohol use, which can also produce some of these symptoms. Like alcohol, ecstasy can disinhibit and cause a person to talk about things they would not otherwise be able to talk about, and to use up all their energy dancing or doing other activities.
The immediate effects of ecstasy wear off after 3-6 hours, and some of the drug’s side effects may appear, such as anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, dizziness, loss of appetite and exhaustion, combined with an inability to sleep. Users may also find that activities undertaken while on the drug catch up with them, causing pain in muscles and limbs, as well as in the mouth due to excessive jaw clenching.
Ecstasy addiction is very rare. However, attending events where the drug is likely to be spun (especially at night), when accompanied by these symptoms, may indicate ecstasy use.
Ecstasy is not technically addictive, although regular use can lead to addiction. Because ecstasy addiction is more of a habit than a reaction to a chemical craving, it should be treated more as a psychological problem than a physiological one. A cold turkey approach on its own may be sufficient to successfully kick an ecstasy habit, although it is best to seek the advice of a doctor or health care professional before attempting anything.
Treatment at a hospital or rehab center will probably be unnecessary, except in the most extreme cases.
Although medical treatment is not usually necessary for mild cases, ecstasy can cause a variety of health problems. Therefore, it may be helpful to consult a physician to diagnose and treat the possible consequences of MDMA use. Chronic ecstasy users can suffer from anxiety and depression, and studies have shown that the drug can cause short- and long-term brain damage. A doctor can help treat these problems, but if the person continues to use ecstasy, this will only exacerbate them.
Given the effects of ecstasy, such as increased heart rate, hyperactivity and gastrointestinal problems, continued use of the drug may have contributed to other medical problems that, if left untreated, could eventually have more serious ramifications.
Therapeutic treatment may also be helpful. Many ecstasy users attribute their addiction, in part, to the fact that they are trying to recreate the same effect they once had, which leads them to take higher doses, more often. This, of course, can lead to an overdose, especially if a user mistakenly believes that an ecstasy pill has no effect.
Understanding the psychology of this habit can help in trying to break it. In addition, behavioral addictions are sometimes due to a routine. If a person has a habit of engaging in activities where the drug is likely to be present, it may be best to avoid these activities if they are trying to break the addiction.
Some ecstasy users believe that using the drug has a positive effect on their personality and social skills, and may need it to cope with social situations in which they might otherwise feel anxious. It is important to address underlying causes such as these, as a user who feels they still need the drug to cope will easily relapse. Anti-social drug use, such as taking the drug alone, can be a cause for concern, although it is probably symptomatic of other psychological problems. In these cases, it is best to seek medical attention.
Although ecstasy has a relatively short half-life, with the effects wearing off within a few hours, the residual effects can last for several weeks. When the drug is accompanied by other conditions such as depression, withdrawal from ecstasy addiction can be more complex and require a holistic approach involving treatment of physical symptoms, behavioral patterns and underlying causes.
Talk To Frank :www.talktofrank.com/drug/ecstasy
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) :www.drugabuse.gov/publications/infofacts/mdma-ecstasywww.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/mdma-ecstasy
SA Health Info :www.sahealthinfo.org/admodule/ecstasy.htm