Overview: Know why they call “ecstasy”
ecstasy? Because it’s easier to sell a drug called “ecstasy”
than one named N-methyl 3, 4 methylenedioxyamphetamine.
Whatever you call it, ecstasy (or MDMA) is just one in a class
of psychedelic stimulants known as phenethylamines, and
it’s been getting way more than its share of attention lately.
Why? Mostly due to continuing high levels of use and new research
that shows that ecstasy may come at a price higher than the 20-30
bucks a pop that dealers charge for it at clubs and raves —
much more, in fact, than most users suspect.
Street Names: E, X, XTC.
Appearance: Although pure MDMA is a white powder,
“E” is usually sold in the form of tablets embossed
with pop-culture icons.
Actions/Effects: Ecstasy’s main effects combine properties
of both stimulants and hallucinogens. Increased feelings of well-being
and sociability are common, as is a heightened sensitivity to
sensory input, without hallucinations or other major perceptual
distortions. Effects begin within 20-30 minutes, peak an hour
or so later, and wind down in 4 to 6 hours.
Risks/Side Effects: While MDMA is relatively non-toxic,
it causes several side effects, including increased heart rate
and blood pressure and next-day “hangover” symptoms
of fatigue and depression. A more serious risk tied to use is
high body temperature, which has caused several deaths in recent
years. In addition to its physical side effects, ecstasy has
been linked by researchers to decreased performance on tests
measuring memory, learning, and intelligence.
Medical Uses: While showing promise as a tool in psychotherapy
(due to its reputed ability to increase empathy and insight),
MDMA was classified a Schedule I controlled substance by the
Drug Enforcement Administration in 1985, which halted all legal
therapeutic use of the drug.
Tolerance & Addiction: MDMA is not physically addicting, although
repeated use can produce tolerance and psychological dependence.
Trends: As ecstasy use surged in the late ’90s and
early 2000’s, so did pharmacological frauds involving the drug.
A common stand-in turned out to be a similar, but more-toxic
drug, PMA (or paramethoxyamphetamine), which has been linked
to multiple deaths by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Demographics: In recent years, ecstasy use has shown
signs of levelling off among older teens and young adults. In
2010, 7.3 percent of high school seniors admitted that they’ve
tried “E” at least once — down 37 percent from 2001,
when 11.7 percent reported similar use.