Dangers of Ecstasy:
Many of today's youth are unaware of any of the lurking dangers of Ecstasy use. Due to this ignorance, many young people find themselves involved in frequent ecstasy use before they know it. Side effects of Ecstasy vary greatly. Some of the short-term side effects of Ecstasy include muscle cramping, teeth clenching, stomach discomfort, chills and sweating. Some of the long term dangers of Ecstasy that have been reported include anxiety, paranoia and depression, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
The effects of long-term damage caused by Ecstasy use are still being studied. Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, causes a rush of the brain chemical serotonin, which is responsible for regulating mood and memory at the most basic level. The serotonin is released in a flood upon use of Ecstasy, and researchers fear neurons which aid in the transmitting of serotonin could be damaged due to overload. A 1999 National Institute on Drug Abuse study said brain scans revealed a significant decrease in serotonin transporters in heavy Ecstasy users compared to a control group.
The case of Lorna Spinks, a sociology undergraduate at Anglia Polytechnic University, who collapsed and died after taking Ecstasy pills graphically illustrates the dangers of taking Ecstasy. It is clear that Ecstasy has the potential to kill. Most deaths due to Ecstasy use have been caused by dehydration. Ecstasy affects body temperature, and when combined with dancing for long periods in a hot place there is a risk of dangerous over-heating.
Ecstasy has sent many users to the emergency room. Between 1998 and 2001, the number of Ecstasy-related emergency room visits in San Diego County increased from 14 to 51, said John Redman, co-chairman of the county Club Drug Task Force. "I am very alarmed by the numbers," said Redman. "The kids that are taking it are unaware of the dangers."
However, it is still unclear the exact danger Ecstasy poses to health. Part of the problem is that many Ecstasy tablets sold are not what purchasers think they are, as the amount of ecstasy in a tablet can vary greatly. Some "Ecstasy" tablets contain no Ecstasy at all, but other drugs such as amphetamine or ketamine. Others have been found to contain some Ecstasy, along with other drugs or a range of adulterants. Some "Ecstasy" tablets have even been found to be fish tank cleaners or dog worming tablets.
Evidence shows that regular use of Ecstasy may cause long-term brain changes which may lead to an increased risk of mental health problems, including chronic depression. Studies have already suggested that Ecstasy is toxic to the neurones in the brain, and that it may kill cells which produce a vital mood chemical called seratonin. An autopsy of a 26-year-old long-term heavy user of Ecstasy revealed that he had up to 80% less serotonin in his brain than normal.
Research from University College London has suggested that former Ecstasy users may suffer memory impairment - even a year or more after giving up Ecstasy. Serotonin carries messages between nerves and is thought to play a role in regulating sleep patterns in humans as well as their mood, memory, perception of pain, appetite and libido.
The dangers of Ecstasy use are masked by its appearance, which looks like an aspirin and can be easily ingested, sheriff's Deputy Dustin Lopez said. "What makes it popular with kids is that it is easy to take," he said. Some users believe taking Ecstasy is like taking a prescription medication, so they downplay the dangers, Lopez said. Drugs like heroin are seen as being more dangerous because it's injected into the veins. Ecstasy's use at raves and nightclubs also make it more acceptable to teens, he said. "A lot of these kids who go to these things don't consider themselves drug users," Lopez said. "They see themselves as recreational drug users."