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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:

Drug Abuse & Pregnancy

Abusing drugs anytime is risky, but when pregnancy is in the cards, abusing drugs not only impacts you but also your unborn child.  Drug abuse during pregnancy can result in deformities, low birth weight, miscarriage, premature labor, placental abruption, and even infant or maternal death.

Different drugs impact the pregnancy in different ways.  Below are some common side effects for various drugs during pregnancy:

Heroin: Heroin crosses the placenta to the baby.  It is highly addictive and the baby can become dependent upon the drug.  Using heroin during pregnancy can increase the chances of the following occurring: premature birth, low birth weight, breathing difficulties, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), bleeding within the brain (intracranial hemorrhage), and infant death.

Cocaine: Cocaine crosses the placenta and enters the baby’s circulatory system.  Cocaine remains in a fetus’s body longer than in an adult’s body. Using during pregnancy can increase the chances of the following occurring: birth defects, placental abruption, and learning difficulties may result as the child gets older. Defects of the genitals, kidneys, and brain are also possible.

Meth: Meth causes both the mother and the fetus’s heart rate to increase.  Using meth during pregnancy can increase the chances of low birth weight, the likelihood of premature labor, miscarriage, and placental abruption and some experts believe that learning difficulties may result as the child gets older.

Marijuana: Marijuana crosses the placenta to the baby.  Like cigarette smoke, marijuana contains toxins that can inhibit the baby from getting proper oxygen supply to grow and develop. Using marijuana during pregnancy can reduce the oxygen supply to the baby, increase the chance of miscarriage, low birth weight, premature births, developmental delays, and behavioral and learning problems.

Many women who suffer from drug addiction and abuse want to know the effects of their drug abuse before they knew they were pregnant.  Talking to a doctor about these concerns is very important and staying free from drug abuse for the remainder of the pregnancy is crucial.

Moms and Drug Abus

Ten years ago, it was reported that at least 18 million women aged 26 and older take prescription medications for unintended purposes.  Today, that number is even higher, and many of those abusing drugs include women who are moms.  Some are surprised to find out how many moms deal with drug abuse, but it must be remember that no one is immune to addiction and drug abuse.  Moms are just as vulnerable to drug abuse as anyone else and may turn to drugs to avoid guilt, stress, boredom, or any number of other things.  Today, an increasing number of moms are becoming addicted to pain medications.

The most commonly abused prescription drugs by moms include: sedatives, muscle relaxants, and opioid painkillers. Just like so many others, most moms started out their drug use legitimately—that is, they received a prescription from their doctor for a valid health issue.  However, some moms continue to use and abuse the drug they were safely prescribed after their treatment for the health issue is resolved.

Further, other drug addictions that seem to be rising with moms include alcohol addiction and abuse, and marijuana use.  Becoming aware of triggers that may turn moms toward drug abuse can stop the addictions before they start.  These triggers increase vulnerability and include: past trauma (such as being abused as a child), a family history of drug abuse problems, a history of drug or alcohol addiction, and the presence of mental health conditions (such as depression).

Also noteworthy is that many moms experience depression and stress after giving birth and these heightened reactions to the hormonal changes and lifestyle changes that occur can increase a mom’s vulnerability to addiction. In fact, any period of heightened stress increases the risk of using and depending on prescription drugs to feel better.

A main reason for the rise in prescription drug abuse by moms is the same as for everyone else: prescription drugs can be obtained and purchased relatively easy.  Moms may lie or or buy from less legitimate pharmacies online in order to maintain their drug habits.  These factors have directly impacted the rise in prescription drug abuse among all groups of people.  Some people simply think that if a doctor prescribes medicine it will not cause any harm.  Understanding side effects and addiction tendencies, and drugs that build tolerance, can also prevent further drug abuse issues. It is important to remember that no on is immune to addiction, even moms.

source: workingmother.com

Diet Pills

Diet pills are popular because they aid in helping users control or maintain their weight.  But how safe are they?  What are the dangers associated with diet pills?  This post addresses these questions.

Diet pills are both prescription and over-the-counter supplements which inhibit body processes that affect weight by increasing metabolism, suppressing appetite or preventing fat absorption.

In fact, many prescription diet pills are Schedule III or IV drugs which helps to prevent abuse and helps to keep diet pills being prescribed to individuals who truly need and benefit from them. Regardless of these regulations and rules, diet pills are abused at a disturbing rate.

So many individuals in the U.S. are constantly setting goals and making promises to lose weight so it’s not shocking knowledge that diet pills are common and available in several forms. Some of the most commonly abused diet pills as identify by addictioncenter.com include:

“Benzphetamine (Didrex)
An anorectic closely related to amphetamines. Benzphetamine is most commonly sold under the prescription name Didrex, and its main function is to reduce appetite in obese individuals.

Diethylpropion
(Tenuate, Tepanil) Prescribed on a short term basis to suppress appetite.

Mazindol
(Mazanor, Sanorex) (Currently only approved for use in the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, mazindol prescriptions may be abused for their appetite suppressive properties)

Phentermine
(Adipex, Ionamin) Reduces appetite. (Used short term to reduce weight in overweight individuals)”

Last, diet pills were designed to take the place of amphetamines as appetite suppressants and as such, they have a potential for addiction and dependence.  Further, diet pills may cause heightened energy and feelings of euphoria, making the likelihood of addiction more prevalent.  Also from addictioncenter.com, “common side effects of diet pill abuse might include:

Insomnia

Dizziness

Hallucinations

Chest pain

Rash and itching

Swelling of legs and ankles

Vomiting

Yellowing of skin or eyes

Dark urine or light-colored stool”

source: addictioncenter.com

Could a Natural Nasal Spray Replace Addictive Opioids

Could a nasal spray actually help people avoid opioid addiction?  Researchers at the University College London say “yes” and they are moving toward testing their theory on human subjects.

When individuals need medicine for pain they are often given opioids to combat their intense pain and help them resume feeling normal.  However, as evidenced in the recently growing opioid epidemic, more and more individuals are becoming dangerously addicted to opioids and more and more overdoses are occurring.  The nasal spray tested by the researchers is a natural opioid  compound and lessens the pain while having no addictive side effects.  This is exciting news because it means that if valid, then individuals treated for pain will not become overly euphoric, tolerant, and addicted to the opioid drugs they may be given for their pain.

In the study, the researchers tested the pain-relieving  opioid nasal spray on mice and found no signs of tolerance or any signs of craving, such as reward-seeking behavior.  “If people don’t develop tolerance, you don’t have them always having to up the dose. And if they don’t have to up the dose, they won’t get closer and closer to overdose,” Ijeoma Uchegbu, a professor of pharmaceutical nanoscience who is leading the research through Nanomerics, a UCL startup, told The Guardian, in an article entitled, “Natural painkiller nasal spray could replace addictive opioids.”

The researchers have now moved to raising money for clinical trials involving humans to test their theory.  The results form their previous studies involving mice seem very hopeful and the researchers are definitely striving to find an alternative to opioid drugs such as fentanyl and oxycontin to aid in the management of pain in the future.

source:https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/01/natural-painkiller-nasal-spray-could-replace-addictive-opioids-trial-indicates

Extra warnings of addiction with opioid use in Utah

In Utah, lawmakers recently pushed forward some bills indicating that extra warnings for patients about addiction risks when taking opioid painkillers will be required.  The new bills indicate that pharmacies are required to label pill containers with the following caution: “Caution: Opioid. Risk of overdose and addiction” or an similar warning the state Department of Health approves of.

Further, another bill moving forward requires prescribers to, “discuss the risks of using an opiate with a patient or the patient’s guardian before issuing an initial opiate prescription,” according to a summary attached to the bill (ksl.com).

The representatives involved believe that these bills are critical to patient education and allowing patients to be completely informed of the risks they are taking when they choose to take prescription opioids.

Although some representative have voiced opposing opinions indicating that they feel that the bills would manage doctors too closely, other lawmakers feel that more must be done to stop the increasing opioid crisis.

source: ksl.com

Increase in Baby Boomer Drug Use

The opioid addiction has definitely reached crisis status.  However, when you think of individuals that struggle with addiction to opioid drugs, most of us picture younger individuals — definitely not retired or elderly persons.  However, there is also an increase in baby boomer drug use— especially in relation to opioid use.  Baby boomers are defined as people born in the years following World War II, when there was an increase in the birth rate. Currently, there are upwards of 76 million baby boomers in America.

Interestingly, drug and alcohol abuse has most often been correlated with youthful teens, but now adults over age 50 are more prone than ever to addiction and substance abuse.  In fact, people of the baby boomer generation as as prone to addiction as their children and grandchildren according to recent statistics.

This growing baby boomer substance abuse epidemic may surprise some, but in reality the increase is really not that shocking.  For instance, when you think about the environment that the baby boomers grew up in with free love and Woodstock mentalities, it truly isn’t shocking that baby boomers are struggling with opioid addiction.  Many quit using drugs in their late 20’s and 30’s but as their children have left home, some of these individuals have picked up drug habits once again and have entered into addictions.  The most commonly abused drugs in this age group include marijuana, heroin, prescription opioids and alcohol.

Along with the fact that baby boomers grew up surrounded by drugs and more lax attitudes in relation to drugs, is the fact that these individuals are aging and in need of more and more painkillers.  Due to the fact that they are taking more painkillers due to problems related to age, the use and addiction rates are increasing.

In sun, the attitudes of baby boomers in relation to drug use, along with the increase in their age causing more health related problems required painkillers have led to an increase in opioid drug addiction in individuals of this generation.  Awareness of this increase is key to getting help for individuals struggling with opioid drug addiction from the baby boomer generation.

An Interesting Perspective on Guns and Drugs

A recent article by Jay Stooksberry was printed in Newsweek indicating that if the war on drugs was to be stopped, the amount of gun violence in the US would significantly decline.  The article points to evidence of when Prohibition was in effect and violence increased, as well as how legalizing marijuana in Colorado has been correlated with a decline in homicides.

It doesn’t seem logical, especially because the gun violence that most of us read and hear about is the mass tragic horrific homicides carried out often by a single gunman.  However, the report indicates that only 3% of the United States homicides occur in this manner and most of them -over 50%-are instead related to drugs.

He states that in Mexico, “between 2007 and 2014, Mexican authorities estimate, 164,000 homicides were the result of cartel (drug) violence.  For perspective, during the same period, civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq totaled 103,000 combined.” These staggering numbers go to show how overlooked this problem can be.

But how would ending the war on drugs help with less gun violence?  It doesn’t seem logical. The article indicates that while the nation’s drug problem needs to be addressed, the way we are going about it is in fact, leading to more violence and more volatile situations involving guns that could be avoided.  The author is not denying there is a problem with drug abuse; instead, he indicates that the limitations and restrictions on guns is contributing to the problem rather than working to minimize it.  Further, the article points out that the “war on drugs” isn’t proving effective and hasn’t been for some time, so policies and procedures in relation to drugs and guns need to be adjusted and reexamined in order to have a more successful outcome.

Source:http://www.newsweek.com/want-reduce-gun-violence-halt-war-drugs-488879

What are Benzos?

Benzodiazepines, known to many as “benzos,” are man-made medications that cause mild to severe depression of the nerves within the brain (central nervous system) and sedation (drowsiness).  Seizures, anxiety, and other diseases that require benzodiazepine treatment may be caused by excessive activity of nerves in the brain. These drugs may work by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that nerves in the brain use to send messages to one another. Gamma-aminobutyric acid reduces the activity of nerves in the brain and increasing the effect of GABA with a benzodiazepine, reduces brain activity.

According to medicine.net, benzos are used to treat: “anxiety, nervousness, panic disorders, muscle spasms, seizures, sleeplessness, alcohol withdrawal, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and PMS.”

Benz use, when not closely monitored, can lead to addiction and are most often abused to get “high: due toothier effects on the brain.  In fact, in 2017, benzos were ranked 8th in the top 10 drugs most abused in the United States.

The website drugabuse.org gives 5 shocking facts about benzo addiction:

  1. Becoming Addicted is Shockingly Easy
  2. Quitting is Devastatingly Difficult
  3. Using Often Creates Cognitive Impairment
  4. Developing Alzheimer’s Disease Is Far More Likely
  5. Dying Early Is a Tragic Possibility

medicine.net also lists the effects of benzos which include: lightheadedness, confusion, memory impairment, improper body balance, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, fatigue, respiratory depression, withdrawal symptoms, seizures, slow heart rate, sever low blood pressure, fainting, suicide, jaundice, dependence and abuse, reduced libido, weight gain, vomiting, increase or decrease in appetite, sedation, and/or drowsiness.

Overall, there is a defining need and place for benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, but their usage must be monitored for signs of addiction, dependence, and withdrawal to avoid some of the dangerous side effects of the drugs.  Being aware of the dangers can prevent addiction and help others through recovery from benzo abuse.

sources: medicine.net, drugabuse.org

What is Meth?

These drug effects generally last from six to eight hours, but can last up to twenty-four hours. The first experience might involve some pleasure, but from the start, meth begins to destroy the user’s life. If you’ve ever seen before and after pictures of meth addicts you know that not only does meth destroy the inside of people’s bodies, it dramatically alters their outside appearance in negative ways.

Meth is an illegal drug in the same class as cocaine and other powerful street drugs. It has many nicknames—meth, ice, glass, crank, chalk or speed being the most common. “Meth is used by individuals of all ages, but is most commonly used as a “club drug,” taken while partying in night clubs or at rave parties. It is a dangerous and potent chemical and, as with all drugs, a poison that first acts as a stimulant but then begins to systematically destroy the body. Thus, meth is associated with serious health conditions, including memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior and potential heart and brain damage. Highly addictive, meth burns up the body’s resources, creating a devastating dependence that can only be relieved by taking more of the drug. Meth’s effect is highly concentrated, and many users report getting hooked from the first time they use it. (drugfreeworld.org)” Sadly, meth addiction is one of the hardest drug addictions to treat and many die due to it’s strong effects.

Source: drugfreeworld.org

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