Sadly, ecstasy is one of the most popular used drugs —especially among youth —today.  In fact, it is estimated that there are 9 million ecstasy users worldwide.  Although ecstasy is illegal, the young adults and teens who most often use the drug don’t recognize just how dangerous it is. Mixed with alcohol, ecstasy becomes even more dangerous and can be deadly.

This Guide outlines:

  • What is Ecstasy?
  • How Ecstasy Affects the Brain
  • Added Risk of MDMA
  • Is Ecstasy Addictive?
  • Video: Your Brain on MDMA

What Is Ecstasy?

What exactly is ecstasy?  The National Institute of Drug Abuse defines ecstasy as: “a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception.”

It continues: “MDMA was initially popular in the nightclub scene and at all-night dance parties (“raves”), but the drug now affects a broader range of people who more commonly call the drug Ecstasy or Molly.”

It adds: “MDMA’s effects last about 3 to 6 hours, although many users take a second dose as the effects of the first dose begin to fade. Over the course of the week following moderate use of the drug, a person may experience:”

  • irritability
  • impulsiveness and aggression
  • depression
  • sleep problems
  • anxiety
  • memory and attention problems
  • decreased appetite
  • decreased interest in and pleasure from sex

How Ecstasy Affects the Brain

According to the NIH, MDMA increases the activity of three brain chemicals:

  • Dopamine—produces increased energy/activity and acts in the reward system to reinforce behaviors
  • Norepinephrine—increases heart rate and blood pressure, which are particularly risky for people with heart and blood vessel problems
  • Serotonin—affects mood, appetite, sleep, and other functions. It also triggers hormones that affect sexual arousal and trust. The release of large amounts of serotonin likely causes the emotional closeness, elevated mood, and empathy felt by those who use MDMA.

Further health effects include:

  • nausea
  • muscle cramping
  • involuntary teeth clenching
  • blurred vision
  • chills
  • sweating

Added Risk of MDMA

Adding to MDMA’s risks is that pills, capsules, or powders sold as Ecstasy and supposedly “pure” Molly may contain other drugs instead of or in addition to MDMA. Much of the Molly seized by the police contains additives such as cocaine, ketamine, methamphetamine, over-the-counter cough medicine, or synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”). These substances may be extremely dangerous if the person does not know what he or she is taking. They may also be dangerous when combined with MDMA. People who purposely or unknowingly combine such a mixture with other substances, such as marijuana and alcohol, may be putting themselves at even higher risk for harmful health effects.

There are other side effects. High doses of MDMA can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature. This can lead to a spike in body temperature that can occasionally result in liver, kidney, or heart failure or even death.

In addition, because MDMA can promote trust and closeness, its use—especially combined with sildenafil (Viagra®)—may encourage unsafe sexual behavior. This increases people’s risk of contracting or transmitting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.

Is Ecstasy Addictive?

“The NIH reports: Research hasn’t definitively answered whether MDMA is addictive, although it affects many of the same neurotransmitter systems in the brain that are targeted by other addictive drugs. Experiments have shown that animals will self-administer MDMA—an important indicator of a drug’s addictive potential—although the degree of self-administration is less than some other addictive drugs, such as cocaine.”

“Data from both humans and animals suggest that regular MDMA use produces adaptations in the serotonin and dopamine systems that are associated with substance use disorder and related behaviors, such as increased impulsivity. Few studies have attempted to assess MDMA addiction or dependency among people with a history of use in the general population. Studies that have been conducted have shown widely varying results, likely because of the different population samples and different types of measures used. Some people who use MDMA do report symptoms of addiction, including continued use despite negative physical or psychological consequences, tolerance, withdrawal, and craving.”

Still, as the NIH reports elsewhere: “Yes, you can die from MDMA use. MDMA can cause problems with the body’s ability to control temperature, especially when it is used in active, hot settings (like dance parties or concerts). On rare occasions, this can lead to a sharp rise in body temperature (known as hyperthermia), which can cause liver, kidney, or heart failure or even death.”

Additional insights come from the UK. The Guardian reports: “More people are taking ecstasy than ever before – and more people are dying from it. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), about one in 20 16- to 24-year-olds report having taken ecstasy in the past 12 months; the Global Drugs Survey (GDS) found an increase in use among UK clubbers of 16% between 2014 and 2016.”

The report continues: “According to figures released by the ONS towards the end of 2016, deaths linked to ecstasy or MDMA are at their highest level in a decade. In 2010, there were eight; in 2015, the count was 57. According to last year’s Global Drugs Survey, in which more than 100,000 drug users worldwide were quizzed about their habits, this is ‘the worst time to be using MDMA in a generation.'”

Video: Your Brain on MDMA

According to Eric Chudler, Ph.D. a neuroscientistand Executive Director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering: “Data suggest that MDMA may be toxic to the brain. Dr. George Ricaurte, an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University, analyzed brain scans of people who had used ecstasy. The study included people who had used ecstasy an average of 200 times over five years. Although the behavior of these people appeared normal, brain scans showed that the drug had damaged their brains. In fact, those who used the drug more often had more brain damage than less frequent users. Moreover, memory tests of people who have taken ecstasy as compared to non-drug users have shown that the ecstasy users had lower scores.”

He continues: “Specifically, the drug damaged cells that release the neurotransmitter called serotonin. Using an imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET), Ricaurte noted a 20-60% reduction in healthy serotonin cells in the drug users. Damage to these cells could affect a person’s abilities to remember and to learn.”

What does MDMA actually do to your brain? ASAPScience explains:

Top Ten Most Abused Drugs of 2017

As the year 2017 comes to an end, many studies show a clear list of the top ten drugs abused this year. Sadly, many individuals continue to struggle with addiction to these drugs. But, on a brighter note, several individuals have overcome their addictions this year or are on their way to doing so in recovery. Hopefully, 2018 will bring even more success for the many individuals who fight against addictions to these top ten powerful drugs.

The top ten list of most abused illegal drugs in 2017 is as follows:

1-Crack Cocaine

2-Heroin

3-Methamphetamine

4-Bath Salts

5-Cocaine

6-Amphetamines

7-Methadone

8-Benzodiazepines

9-Ecstasy

10-Marijuana

In the coming weeks, watch for more in-depth descriptions of these top ten most abused drugs of 2017 on this site.

Sources:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse

https://medlineplus.gov/drugabuse.html

Top 10 most abused drugs

Recent statistics show that there has been a slight shift in the top 10 most commonly abused drugs. The most noteworthy is marijuana, moving from 3rd place to 2nd place recently. Most speculate this is due on part to the legalization of recreational marijuana in many parts of the country.

1-Alcohol: The CDAC notes that, “with over half (51.8%) of U.S. population identified as drinkers, alcohol is the #1 most abused substance. Nearly a quarter of the population participates in binge drinking (58.6 million), and 6.7% of the population reported heavy drinking (16.9 million). As a depressant, alcohol produces impaired coordination and judgment, slurred speech, and blackouts.”

2- Marijuana: Marijuana is the #1 most abused illicit drug and the third most abused drug according to the CDAC. The CDAC reports that, “the dried parts of the Cannabis plant can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination and problems with learning and memory.”

3- Tobacco: At least one quarter of Americans (6.9 million) are users of a tobacco product making it the second most abused drug. Many individuals are drawn to smoking because it stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain and turn on the body’s natural chemicals that produce euphoria. Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, causing long-term systemic effects. These risks include high blood pressure and smoking has been proven to increase the risk of cancer.

4-Prescription painkillers: The abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise and has moved up in ranking to be the fourth most abused type of drug. Painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, are the most abused prescription drugs. These drugs can produce effects similar to heroin. Painkillers can have negative effects on the physical body causing heightened sensitivity to sound and light, hallucinations, blackouts and problems with the lungs, central nervous system, stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys, heart and death from overdose.

5-Cocaine: Although cocaine gained popularity back in the 1980’s, it still remains on the top 10 list of most abused drugs: listed as the fifth most abused. According to the CDAC, nearly 1.5 million people in America are current users of this white powder. Cocaine use results in severe psychological dependence and intense drug cravings. This is due to cocaine’s short-lived yet powerful effects of euphoria. With cocaine, tolerance builds quickly, making it more dangerous.

6- Prescription Sedatives: The most common sedatives are benzodiazepines and tranquilizers. Approximately 2.4 million people in the U.S. are using sedatives for non-medical purposes. These are highly addictive and can cause memory loss, poor motor coordination, paranoia, stupor, suicidal thoughts, aggression, respiratory depression and coma. Mixing sedatives with alcohol is very dangerous and can cause death.

7- Prescription Stimulants: Prescription stimulant drugs have a high addictive rate and about 1.2 million Americans are currently taking prescription stimulants for non-medical purposes. These stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall, are usually prescribed for people who have narcolepsy or ADHD. These drugs increase the level of dopamine in the brain causing feelings of euphoria. Abuse of stimulants can cause heart attacks, strokes, depression, malnutrition, hostility and paranoia. Because stimulants increase energy and focus, teenagers are abusing the drug because they believe it will enhance their learning and test scores. The abuse of these drugs has increased significantly on college campuses across the country.

8- Hallucinogens (LSD, ecstasy): Approximately 1.1 million people are currently taking hallucinogens in the U.S. Hallucinogenic drugs are known as PCP, mescaline, Ecstasy, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. These drugs cause hallucinations and profoundly affect the perception of reality. Some negative effects of using hallucinogenic drugs are delusions, paranoia, panic, terror, despair, psychosis, and psychological illness. Flashbacks from some of these drugs may occur at anytime after using the drug. LSD is reported to be the most popular hallucinogen among users. LSD, also known as “acid,” is the most potent hallucinogen in the world. It is often sold on blotting paper, or “window panes.” The effects of LSD are unpredictable, altering the user’s mood, personality, and sensations of reality. (CDAC, 2012).

9- Heroin: Heroin is known as the most powerful and addictive drug in the world and its use is increasing in the U.S. Heroin induces euphoria by binding to the opioid receptors that control consciousness, breathing and blood pressure. Long-term effects of using heroin include collapsed veins, partial paralysis, memory loss, intellectual impairment, and disease of the heart, liver and kidneys. Heroin is often diluted with other substances creating a high risk of physical complications and death. It is made from poppy plants and is a highly addictive opiate. It can be injected, smoked, or sniffed and creates a feeling of a euphoric rush. Users feel an increased ability to communicate easily with others, and report heightened sexual performance.

10-Methamphetamine: The tenth most abused drug is methamphetamine, also known as meth, crank, or speed. Although last on the list, it shouldn’t be ignored. Meth is popular among young adults. Meth produces feelings of well-being and energy which can last from 4 to 16 hours. Because of its lasting effects, it is a popular drug for both parties and nightclubs. Meth is highly addictive, and burns up the body’s resources and can cause permanent damage to the brain and body.

 

Beware: Ecstasy Disguised as Halloween Candy

If you happen to see colorful superman logo shaped, Facebook “likes” shapes, or domino shaped unwrapped candy in your child’s Halloween treat bag this year, beware. These candy-like pills are NOT candy—they are drugs and, in fact, can be extremely dangerous to children.   If you see something like these fun, candy-like pills in your child’s Halloween basket this year, be warned—not only are they not candy, they are drugs disguised as candy and are dangerous.

One Jacksonville, Florida police department wrote on Facebook, “If your kids get these for Halloween candy, they ARE NOT CANDY! They are the new shapes of “Ecstasy” and can kill kids through overdoses!!! So, check your kid’s candy and ‘When in doubt, Throw it out!!!”

Also, the police department noted that the warning is not specific to Jacksonville and should be spread to parents nationwide. They recommend that parents carefully check their children’s candy and get rid of anything that resembles homemade treats.

However, it is important to note that verified cases of Halloween candy tampering and poisoning are rare. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to throw anything unusual away that you find in your child’s candy haul.

Source: wapt.com

Sadly, ecstasy is one of the most popular used drugs —especially among youth —today.  In fact, it is estimated that there are 9 million ecstasy users worldwide.  Although ecstasy is illegal, the young adults and teens who most often use the drug don’t recognize just how dangerous it is.

Mixed with alcohol, ecstasy becomes even more dangerous and can be deadly.

What exactly is ecstasy?  Wikipedia defines ecstasy as, Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), commonly known as ecstasy, is a psychoactive drug used primarily as a recreational drug. The desired recreational effects include increased empathy, euphoria, and heightened sensations.  When taken by mouth, effects begin after 30–45 minutes and last 3–6 hours.  As of 2017, MDMA has no approved medical uses”.

Ecstasy is most often associated with parties.  The harm caused from ecstasy has become so widespread that emergency room incidents have skyrocketed more than 1,200 percent recently.  So, you may want to ask yourself, when it seems like a fun thing to do at an all night rave—is the “club drug” ecstasy really worth it? Definitely not.

Ecstasy use continues to rise among certain groups and populations in the US. Ecstasy, otherwise known as both Molly and MDMA, can be taken orally as a capsule or a tablet. Ecstasy is a chemical stimulant that is popular among young adults in the nightclub scene. The effects of ecstasy often include: changes in person’s mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain.

Ecstasy is very dangerous and can lead to fatal increases in blood pressure and heart rate due to the chemical effects of the drug. Further, ecstasy can generate confusion, depression, anxiety and drug cravings that can take effect immediately or possibly even weeks after ingestion. Some celebrities have admitted to taking the drug and have also chronicled the difficulties of fighting their addiction including: Eminem, Brittney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Jack Black.

Disturbingly, when ecstasy is taken in high doses, it can interfere with body temperature regulation, leading to liver, kidney, or cardiovascular system failure or death.  Many don’t realize that ecstasy can be lethal even in its first use. Individuals who find themselves addicted to ecstasy are at a high risk for depression and anxiety as well as concentration issues and memory loss even after breaking free from their addiction. For this and other reasons, it is imperative that those addicted to ecstasy seek help in overcoming their addiction.

sources: drugfreeworld.com, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDMA

Contact Turning Point Centers for help.

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