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Ecstasy (MDMA)

Other Club Drugs  -  Drugs & Teen Substance Abuse


Certain drugs have become popular

among teens and young adults at dance clubs

and all-night dance parties called 'raves'.


These drugs, collectively termed 'club drugs', include MDMA (Ecstasy), Rohypnol, GHB, ketamine, and LSD.



What is Ecstasy?


MDMA, methylenedioxymethamphetamine, called Ecstasy, X, XTC, Adam, Lover's Speed, Clarity on the street, is a synthetic drug that can produce both stimulant and mild sensory-altering effects.  It is similar to the stimulant amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline.


MDMA is usually taken orally, by tablet or capsule. Its effects last approximately 3 to 6 hours, though depression, sleep problems, and anxiety have been reported for days to weeks afterwards.




Who uses Ecstasy?


Ecstasy is used most often by young adults and adolescents at clubs, raves (large, all-night dance parties), and rock concerts.  Its abuse is increasingly reported in metropolitan areas.


What are the health hazards of using Ecstasy?


Many of the risks are similar to those found with the use of amphetamines and cocaine.  Also, Ecstasy can interfere with its own metabolism (breakdown), so repeated use over a short interval of time can lead to especially harmful levels in the body.


Symptoms include:

  • Psychological difficulties, including confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety, and paranoia -- during and sometimes weeks after taking Ecstasy  (psychotic episodes have also been reported).

  • Physical symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, and chills or sweating.

  • Marked increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), which may further be exacerbated by the hot and crowded conditions characteristic of the rave environment.  Hyperthermia can lead to liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure.

  • Increases in heart rate and blood pressure, a special risk for people with circulatory or heart disease.  Other cardiac effects include arrhythmia, heart muscle damage, and reductions in heart rate and blood pressure. (Initially, Ecstasy increases heart rate and blood pressure, but following repeated use, this effect is reversed.)

  • Ecstasy can affect the hormone that regulates the amount of sodium in the blood, which can also cause hyponatremia (water intoxication).

  • Chronic use of Ecstasy has been associated with memory impairment, which may indicate damage to the parts of the brain involved in memory processing.

  • Sometimes a rash that looks like acne will appear on the skin which has been linked with liver damage.

What are other signs of use?

  • Staying out very late.  Most raves begin late and end at daybreak.  Raves are the primary distribution point for Ecstasy and other club drugs.

  • Extreme or moderate irritability the day after consuming these drugs.  A depletion of serotonin in the brain causes irritability the day after use.

  • Possessing a baby pacifier, a pacifier made of candy, lollipops, and candy necklaces.  Some club drugs cause the users to clench their teeth tightly which causes discomfort. The pacifier eliminates this discomfort.

  • Inability to sleep.

  • Possession of fluorescent light sticks.  Because drug users' sensory preceptors are heightened, fluorescent light sticks are popular with club drug users.

  • Hospital masks lined with menthol ointment.  Users use them to get a vapor rush.

  • Use of Tiger Balm for cramps.

  • Children's vitamin containers are used to conceal Ecstasy tablets.

  • Bags of small Tootsie Rolls.  These are warmed and unwrapped, Ecstasy pill pushed into the roll and re-wrapped).


 Child Behavior

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Ecstasy also is related in its structure and effects to methamphetamine, which has been shown to cause degeneration of neurons containing the neurotransmitter dopamine.   Damage to these neurons is the underlying cause of the motor disturbances seen in Parkinson's disease.



Information provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1-888-NIH-NIDA.



NEXT:  Other Club Drugs



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Boundaries with Teens:  When To Say Yes, How To Say No

by John Townsend

Click here for KINDLE EDITION

To help teenagers grow into healthy adults, parents and youth workers need to teach them how to take responsibility for their behavior, their values, and their lives. Dr. Townsend gives important keys for establishing healthy boundaries --- the bedrock of good relationships, maturity, safety, and growth for teens and the adults in their lives.  Boundaries with Teens  offers help in raising teens to take responsibility for their actions, attitudes, and emotions.


More Information on Ecstasy


The Agony of Ecstasy ~ How a suburban party diversion is becoming a dangerous street drug.


Basic Facts About Ecstasy (pdf) ~ First developed as an appetite suppresant in 1914, MDMA was used as a psychotherapeutic tool and also started to become available on the street in the late 70s and early 80s.  It wasn't until 1985 that Ecstasy was made illegal.  An Ecstasy high can last from 6-24 hours but usually averages 3-4 hours.  Some reactions have been reported to persist from one to 14 days after use.


DanceSafe ~ Promotes  health and safety within the rave and nightclub community.


Does Ecstasy Cause Parkinson's? ~ This study implicates dopamine neurotoxicity rather than serotonin depletion.


Ecstasy Can Damage Brain ~ The first studies of people who use Ecstasy show that the popular club drug impairs memory and damages the brain mechanisms that regulate sleep, mood and learning.


Ecstasy drug trade turns violent ~ Its primary buyers and many of its low-level dealers are teenagers and college kids from middle- and upper-income families.


Ecstasy: Poison or Panacea? ~ As the debate rages on the safety of this drug, a broad section of people have already made up their own minds -- It's worth the risk.


Emergency Department Visits Involving Ectsasy (pdf) ~ The number of drug-related emergency department visits involving MDMA (Ecstasy) increased 74.8 percent from 2004 to 2008.


Hallucinogens ~ Comprehensive article that includes information and photographs of LSD, Ecstasy, peyote, PCP, ketamine, psilocybin.


Herbal 'Ecstasy' ~ Herbal Ecstasy is a term used to describe a combination of herbs that are legal, inexpensive, and marketed as a "natural high." Herbal Ecstasy can be purchased over the counter in drug stores, music stores, and shops around the country.


The Heroin of the Heartland ~ The term drug abuse conjures up images of heroin addicts on big-city streets, but one of the most abused drugs in the country is ecstasy and it's turning up in small towns across America.


The Invention of MDMA or Ecstasy ~ MDMA was patented in 1913 (patent #274.350) by the German chemical company Merck supposedly to be sold as a diet pill (the patent does not mention any intended use), the company decided against marketing the drug and had nothing more to do with it.  The US army experimented with MDMA in 1953, possibly as truth serum, they have not revealed their reasons.


Nightly Grind ~ Chronic Ecstasy users are experiencing various severe dental maladies, namely cracking enamel, worn teeth and jaw problems. In fact, retainers are beginning to replace pacifiers as the en vogue look at raves.


Perfect Little Girl ~ Kati was a vibrant young girl who liked school and loved to dance. Then she was introduced to Ecstasy.  Kati and her parents recount their struggle for 48 Hours.


Regular Ecstasy Users Risking Loss of Memory ~ Regular users of the drug are inflicting so much damage to their memory they frequently forget simple tasks and routinely lose their train of thought while talking, according to UK research.


Research Report:  MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse ~ Information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Rise Seen in Trafficking of Enhanced Ecstasy ~ Methamphetamine-laced Ecstasy is flowing across the Canadian border into the United States (2008).


Spots mark the Ecstasy health risk ~ Ecstasy users could have an early warning of liver damage and other dangerous side-effects -- an acne-like rash.


Street Terms for Ecstasy ~ From 007s to XTC.


Teens see little risk in Ecstasy ~ Teen use of the drug Ecstasy is leveling off, but the majority of American teenagers say they see no risk in experimenting with the drug.


What is Ecstasy? ~ Overview of Ecstasy from



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