As the Foundation for a Drug-Free World explains, Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, has a unique history dating back to 1912 when the major drug manufacturer Merck first developed it (as a slimming drug, but it was never actually marketed). In 1953, the U.S. Army adapted MDMA for psychological warfare tests. The drug then had a stint in the 1960s as a medication used in psychotherapy to lower patient inhibitions. By the 1970s, MDMA had made its way onto the street and into night clubs. In the 1980s, MDMA was introduced into couple’s therapy to help resolve marital and relationship problems. Ultimately, the abuse of MDMA as a recreational drug (among other factors) led to it being treated as an illegal substance with possession and/or distribution subjecting involved parties to criminal penalties.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MDMA is both a stimulant and a psychedelic. MDMA is an acronym for its proper chemical name – methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (which is three letters more than the length of the entire alphabet). MDMA directly impacts brain function by interfering with neurotransmitters (chemicals) in the brain that are responsible for nerve cells communicating with one another. MDMA also stimulates a release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which likely is the cause of the increase in heart rate and blood pressure associated with taking this synthetic drug.
Although the original name MDMA remains in circulation, additional aliases on the street and in clubs include:
- E, X or XTC
- Lover’s Speed or Love Drug
- Molly or Adam
- Hug, Clarity or Beans
Although these names sound benign, Ecstasy can contribute to, or cause, serious health problems and even death. According to Dance Safe, an education and advocacy group dedicated to ensuring a safe electronic music dance culture, Ecstasy is not dangerous because of a risk of overdose as much as other threats. The group explains, based on information from emergency room admission reports, that Ecstasy is only one of different contributing factors to heat stroke and dehydration, and sometimes dangerously interacts with a user’s preexisting medical condition.
MDMA has been proven to cause water retention (a condition known as hyponatremia, or water-toxicity) and there have been reported deaths. The fact that Ecstasy can make a poor health situation worse, or directly cause a non-fatal or fatal illness, means that it’s important for the public to get the facts on its use, signs and symptoms, and for parents to be vigilant if they suspect Ecstasy use in their teen.
Ecstasy has a common association with youth and young adult culture, and it is widely considered to be a club drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for Teens
, in 2013, 7.1 percent of 12th
graders, 5.7 percent of 10th
graders, and 1.8 percent of 8th
graders reported using Ecstasy at some point during their lifetime. This statistic does not reflect the practice of “bumping,” which is taking more than one Ecstasy tablet, pill or capsule at the same time. Taking more than one Ecstasy dose or bumping can be particularly dangerous because the illegal makers of this drug often add in additional drugs and chemicals, such as:
- Caffeine or amphetamines
- Dextromethorphan (in cough syrups)
- Synthetic bath salts instead of MDMA
According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in the prior year Ecstasy recruited 751,000 new users, which was fewer than the 1.1 million new users in 2009, and the 869,000 initiates in 2012. The 2013 survey supports that many people who use Ecstasy get their start at a young age. In 2013, the majority of first-time users – 69.4 percent – were aged 18 and older, with an average starting age of 20.5 overall. In the age group under 18, there were 230,000 new Ecstasy users. Of all the drugs studied in the survey, Ecstasy ranked fourth in terms of attracting new users aged 12 and older; marijuana ranked number one followed by pain relievers and tranquilizers.
Additional Considerations for Parents
In light of the association of Ecstasy with teens, parents should be informed about signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of Ecstasy abuse. According to About Parenting, teens (and adults alike) may experience damaging physical and psychological effects from Ecstasy use including trouble sleeping, depression, severe anxiety and paranoia.
In addition, teen users who frequent clubs may have Ecstasy paraphernalia in their bedrooms, backpacks, or among personal belongings. Parents are well advised to note that Ecstasy paraphernalia includes baby pacifiers (to aid with involuntary teeth grinding) and sensory-enhancement items, such as glow sticks, vapor rub and surgical masks. If teens are displaying ill health and/or a change in temperament and are in possession of items that do not appear to have any applicable use, parents are best advised to make inquiries and/or seek assistance from a qualified drug counselor.
Whether you are an adult Ecstasy abuser, or the parent of a child abusing this drug, we can help you find a treatment solution. Our network of rehab centers has extensive experience in all types of drug abuse and comprehensive drug rehab services. We are here to help you connect to the right rehab facility right now.