Ecstasy: Facts, Statistics, and Problems with Addiction
Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a synthetic and psychoactive drug which acts as both a hallucinogen and stimulant. The chemical structure of ecstasy is similar to two other drugs: MDMA—often called the “love drug” and a close chemical cousin to ecstasy—and methamphetamine, which are known to cause brain damage in those who use the drug. Ecstasy comes in tablet form and was originally created to be a dietary supplement and was also used in counseling sessions in order for patients to lose inhibitions.
Ecstasy Use, Facts, and Trends
According to government data and reported on the Boston University website, the number of emergency room visits by people who had taken ecstasy increased 123 percent between 2005 and 2009, which was the most recent year for which statistics were available. A report issued by the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that 11 million people aged 12 years or older had reported using ecstasy in their lifetimes. The actual amount of users is hard to pinpoint since ecstasy use and ecstasy addiction is linked with the use of other substances, especially alcohol
Ecstasy, otherwise known in street terms as molly or the hug drug, is popular among adolescents and young adults. Use of the drug is often seen and sold at bars, underground clubs, and raves. According to the Monitor the Future study conducted in 2010, 4.6 percent of 12th-graders, 4.7 percent of 10th-graders, and 2.4 percent of 8th-graders reported they had used Ecstasy in the past year. In 2000, 8.2 percent of 12th-graders, 5.4 percent of 10th-graders and 3.1 percent of 8th-graders reported they had used Ecstasy.
In the same year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published their National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The report stated that the average age that people first used ecstasy was 19.4 years of age. Ecstasy use is predominant in White youth, but studies also have indicated that use is increasing among Black youths.
Ecstasy and its Effects on the Brain and Body
When an individual uses ecstasy, it affects the brain by increasing the production of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Compared to methamphetamine, ecstasy causes a greater release of serotonin and there is less of a release of dopamine. Serotonin plays an important role in the regulation of mood, sleep, pain and emotion among others. Ecstasy addiction can cause the user to experience long lasted confusion and significant impairments of motor functioning as well as cognitive functioning. There have main connections drawn between ecstasy addiction and heavy use to the onset of Parkinson’s disease.
The effect of ecstasy on the body depends on the size of the individual, overall health, as well as the doses and their frequency. The effects of ecstasy can start to be felt anywhere between 20 minutes to one hour after it has been taken and the effects last on average about six hours. Ecstasy also disturbs the body’s regulation of temperature which can cause hypothermia or overheating to occur and the user may not be aware, which can lead to death. Other physical symptoms can include sleep problems, severe anxiety and intense cravings for the drug.
Long-Term Effects of Ecstasy Addiction
Long-term ecstasy use and ecstasy addiction produce effects similar to those seen in cocaine and amphetamine abuse. Along with the issues of sleep problems, confusion, and intense cravings for the drug there can also be psychotic episodes and paranoia that can occur with ecstasy addiction. Physical side effects can last for weeks even after the user stops taking the drug. Some of those symptoms include involuntary teeth clenching and muscle tension along with rapid eye movement and sweating.
Permanent brain damage as a result of ecstasy use and ecstasy addiction is a real possibility. In studies done with monkeys, exposure to ecstasy for four days cause enough damage to the brain’s serotonin receptors that the effects were still visible seven years later. Not only is there an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease associated with ecstasy use and addiction, ecstasy addiction can also increase the risk of heart complications and liver disease. There can be other physical concerns with ecstasy addiction in the fact that the drug is often cut with other substances like ketamine, ephedrine, and methamphetamine.