What does ecstasy mean, exactly? One meaning for the word ecstasy is “an overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement.” A second definition defines it as “an emotional or religious frenzy or trance-like state, originally one involving an experience of mystic self -transcendence.” Both of these definitions can be related to the drug called ecstasy. The drug ecstasy is classified as “an amphetamine-based synthetic drug with euphoric and hallucinatory effects, originally promoted as an adjunct to psychotherapy.”
Just as the name implies, ecstasy delivers feelings of happiness, joy and excitement. However, these sensations do come with a price. Ecstasy is similar in structure to the methamphetamine called mescaline. Ecstasy drug supporters claim it has potential psychiatric applications, but the US Drug Enforcement Agency does not agree. Ecstasy is a Schedule 1 narcotic drug and is not available with a prescription. This puts ecstasy in the same category as heroin and LSD. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, approximately 9 million people worldwide use ecstasy.
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The History of Ecstasy
Ecstasy was patented in 1913 by the German pharmaceutical company, Merck. Although the patent mentions nothing of it, Merck claims it was intended to be sold as a diet pill. Controversy caused Merck to cancel its marketing campaign and abandon the manufacturing of the drug completely.
Ecstasy is also known as MDMA. The first person to study MDMA was a University of California scientist named Alexander Shulgin. He worked as a research chemist for Dow Chemicals. He was involved in creating several prescription drug patents which were controversial. It is suspected that these drugs were set to become popular street drugs. The first reported person to ever take MDMA, Shulgin believed that MDMA was the drug that came closest to his dream of finding the perfect drug for therapy purposes.
Between 1977 and 1985, only a handful of therapists decided to experiment with MDMA in their practice. Very little testing or research was done during this period of time. In 1985, word about ecstasy spread in the media. This happened because a group of people sued the DEA to try and get them to not outlaw the drug. On July 1, 1985 the DEA responded by placing an emergency ban on MDMA.
Who Uses Ecstasy
Ecstasy users frequently do other types of drugs at the same time. Most of the time it is taken in pill form, but it is also available as a powder, for snorting. Ecstasy can also be made in liquid form which can be injected. This form of ecstasy is made of the nervous system depressant known as GHB. This substance can also be found in drain cleaners, floor strippers and degreasers.
In today’s culture, ecstasy is commonly taken at raves, nightclubs and rock concerts. People take ecstasy and then may enjoy dancing all night. This is because ecstasy may cause color and sound to be perceived more intensely. Ecstasy has a tendency to make the user break down their inhibitions. Because of this, they are more at risk of having unsafe sex. Doing so puts the user at risk of getting a sexually-transmitted disease, and/or an unwanted pregnancy.
Ecstasy is being used increasingly by young adults and college students. The 1990’s showed the sharpest rise. Even students as young as the 8th grade are using ecstasy. A study conducted by NIDA determined that 5% of 10th and 12th grade students and 2% of 8th graders said they have used ecstasy before. The demand for ecstasy continues, and its distribution is on the rise.
How Ecstasy Makes You Feel
Ecstasy is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that is both a stimulant and a hallucinogen. The effects of ecstasy start after about 20 minutes and last anywhere from 4-6 hours. Effects vary by the individual and are influenced by dosage, purity and the user’s immediate environment. Ecstasy users report a variety of positive feelings, which is caused by the serotonin release that occurs. It begins with the feeling of an energy rush and moves into a feeling of peacefulness. Ecstasy may create a desire to touch and be touched. The user may be extremely relaxed and feel a strong empathy or connection with others.
The desire to eat, drink and sleep may disappear. Because of this, some users attempt to participate in days of partying. This can put the individual at risk for severe dehydration or exhaustion. Adverse effects that may accompany ecstasy use include: nausea, chills, sweating, hallucinations, blurred vision and tremors. It also causes involuntary teeth clenching and muscle cramping. Psychological side effects may include anxiety, paranoia and depression which may be felt several weeks later.
Some ecstasy users try to cover their bases by drinking plenty of water while doing it. This also can become a problem. What can happen is that the ecstasy can make the body retain this excess of water, causing damage. A dangerous electrolyte imbalance may occur as a result.
Exactly how long does ecstasy stay in your system? Ecstasy can be detected in your urine, up to 4 days after taking it. It can be found in the blood up to 2 days after. A hair test can detect the presence of ecstasy up to 90 days after taking it. Women who think they could be pregnant should never take ecstasy. A recent study identified that people who took ecstasy and didn’t know they were pregnant showed a higher risk of birth defects. It showed that congenital heart defects were found more often with mothers who had taken ecstasy.
Although ecstasy is not as addictive as heroin or cocaine, it still poses a significant risk. When an ecstasy user overdoses, they may experience a panic attack and become faint. They have elevated blood pressure and drastic rise in body temperature. Serious overdoses may cause the user to lose consciousness or have a seizure. Since ecstasy has become the drug of choice for nightclubs and parties, emergency rooms have seen a staggering increase in patients needing treatment. Some emergency rooms report a 1,200% increase in ER visits.
Although not as common as cocaine or other methamphetamines, a person can die from doing it. Ecstasy is especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol. What usually happens is that the ecstasy user goes to a rave and dances all night in a hot, crowded area. They become dehydrated or have hyperthermia. Those with heart or circulatory issues are specifically at risk, as the heart or kidneys may stop working.
Facts About Ecstasy
People who take ecstasy risk brain damage. Ecstasy causes the nerve branches and endings in the brain to degenerate. Although the nerve endings regrow, these nerves attach to the wrong areas of the brain. This may cause permanent problems such as emotional changes, learning and memory damage, chemical abnormalities and cognitive impairments.
A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that MDMA damages the brain neurons that are responsible for serotonin transmission. Serotonin is responsible for the regulation of learning, sleep and emotional well-being. Results of this study determined that recreational ecstasy users may have permanent brain damage, which can show up as depression, anxiety, memory loss and other disorders.
A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University using red squirrel monkeys identified another significant factor. Even doing ecstasy just a few times can cause significant brain damage. Researchers found that after only 4 days of exposure to ecstasy, brain damage was present up to 7 years later.
The study’s founding director Alan I. Leshner explains: “The serotonin system, which is compromised by MDMA is fundamental to the brain’s integration of information and emotion. At the very least, people who take MDMA, even just a few times, are risking long-term, perhaps permanent problems with learning and memory.” MDMA was also shown to cause more damage to neurons focused in specific areas of the brain.
Where Ecstasy Comes From
According to Narconon International, a majority of ecstasy is being manufactured in various areas of Western Europe. The Netherlands and Belgium are at the top of this list. Secret locations manufacture both pills and powder. In recent years, Israeli organized crime syndicates have formed an alliance with these dealers. These Israeli groups have become the main source of ecstasy distribution to Europe and the United States in recent years.
Ecstasy traffickers smuggle them in by sending them via express mail, in shipments of 10,000 or more tablets. They may also use commercial airline flight couriers or air freight shipments. The ecstasy is then sold in bulk quantity for about $8 per dose. The local dealer then resells them on the street for about $20-$30 each. To increase sales, ecstasy makers offer their product with special names and logos. For example, they may offer a four-leaf clover pill for St. Patrick’s Day. Terms for ecstasy pills among users include X, beans, Adam, Eve, hug drug, love drug, roll, snowball and Molly.
When ecstasy makers give their pills the name Molly, they are claiming they are pure MDMA, which has not been cut with other substances such as caffeine or other amphetamines. Users are basically taking the dealer’s word for it, as they have no way of knowing whether it is pure MDMA or not. A common myth is that Molly pills are safer to take than other varieties.
The penalty for getting caught with ecstasy depends on how much the person was caught with. The repercussions of possession, delivering and manufacturing ecstasy are stiff. The person may stay in jail from 4 years to life. Fines incurred can be anywhere from $250,000 to $4 million, depending how much drug was in the person’s possession.
Ecstasy users enjoy the feelings of euphoria that they experience when taking it. Nevertheless, there is much to risk when you decide to take ecstasy. Ecstasy users roll the dice and take their chances every time they swallow a pill. First of all, you risk going to jail, just for a couple hours of fun. Most don’t know where the pill came from or what is even in it. It is much like playing Russian roulette, as you have no way of knowing the damage it has done to your brain, until it is too late. A few hours of fun can cause brain damage, and even death.