Ecstasy Side Effects and Dangers
What is ecstasy?
Ecstasy is a stimulant psychotropic drug. It promotes the release of serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain, which causes short-term pleasant feelings, so it is sometimes called a "happy chemical." Good feelings are often followed by feelings of guilt and shame, which can ruin your the user's self-esteem and severely affect his or her relationships with people.
Chemically, ecstasy is 3,4-methylenedioksy-methamphetamine (MDMA).
Ecstasy is chemically related to amphetamine (a prescription drug that increases alertness) and methamphetamine or "meth" (an illegal drug).
Ecstasy tablets rarely contain pure MDMA. They may contain MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine), which has longer and stronger effects, including hallucinations, or MDEA (methylenedioxyethylamphetamine), which has milder effects than MDMA.
MDMA powder (molly) can contain pure MDMA hydrochloride or, if made from crushed tablets, 30-40% of MDMA. It is intended for sniffing, ingesting (as capsules) or smoking. Rarely, users dissolve the molly powder in water and inject it into a vein.
MDMA freebase is a non-salt, oil form of ecstasy intended for smoking. It is rarely produced from MDMA powder.
Street names (nicknames) for ecstasy tablets include Adam, brownies, clarity, Dolphins, E, Mitsubishi’s, Rolex’s, Stacy, X, XCT, etc.
Ecstasy is illegal in most countries. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the United States categorize ecstasy as a Schedule I drug, that is a drug that has a high potential of abuse, so it is not legal even for medical use.
Adulterating means adding other substances to a drug.
To make ecstasy pills cheaper but still somewhat effective, producers often add various mild legal drugs to it:
- Analgesics acetaminophen, aspirin, fentanyl, methyl salicylate, procaine or tramadol
- Anti-cough medications dextromethorphan (DXM) or guaifenesin
- The antidepressant fluoxetine
- The antiepileptic carbamazepine
- The antihistamine diphenhydramine
- The steroids methandienone
- Vitamin E
To make ecstasy more addictive, producers can add strong illegal drugs:
- Amphetamine, methamphetamine
- Benzylpiperazine (BZP)
- 4-bromo-2,5-dimethoxyamphetamine (DOB)
- Codeine (a narcotic)
- Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine
- m-Chlorphenylpiperazine (MCPP)
- Paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA) - commonly causing death
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (an active substance in marijuana)
To make ecstasy look better, producers can add non-edible and toxic substances:
- Car paint
- Metallic glitter
Ecstasy pills can also contain lactose or other inert substances that have no effect.
Ecstasy tablets have signs on them (see the picture on the top), which should tell something about the drug content, but those signs are highly unreliable. Often, ecstasy contains no MDMA at all.
Short-Term Ecstasy Effects
Ecstasy stimulates the release of serotonin in the brain, which can have the following effects lasting for four to six hours:
- Euphory, feeling of high energy
- Empathy with others, being "in tune" with others
- Feeling music more intense
- Enhanced or distorted sense of touch. Ravers tend to perform various "rolling tricks," which means touching each other in certain special ways, to enhance the feelings of pleasure.
- Increased feeling of sexual arousal
- Rarely, mild hallucinations with enhanced or distorted colors or sounds, or distorted perception of time
- Afterglow, a feeling of completeness and calmness after the main ecstasy effects subside.
What to Think When Someone Offers You Ecstasy?
When someone tries to sell you ecstasy, he or she probably does not care about your well being and fun but how to get money from you.
When your "friends" offer you ecstasy for free, you may think they want you to have a good time. It is more likely they just want you to join them in their silly behavior, so they will not feel alone and guilty.
They might tell you how fun is to dance after taking ecstasy. However, when people became aware how they were behaving and what were they talking under the influence of ecstasy, they may feel a deep guilt and shame with which they might not be able to cope. At this point, they may start to use other, stronger drugs.
What Can Ecstasy Do to You?
Ecstasy can make you euphoric and disinhibited. You may feel close with others, you want to touch and hug them and share intimate secrets with them.
The day after the ecstasy party, you may recall what you were talking about with others. It happens that people, when on ecstasy, disclose much more secrets to complete strangers (or school mates...) they would normally do.
Psychological Side Effects of Ecstasy
- Anxiety, restlessness
- Panic attacks
Physical Side Effects of Ecstasy
Ecstasy may cause:
- Decreased appetite
- Dry mouth
- Jaw clenching (trismus) and teeth grinding (bruxism), which can look like awkward grimacing to the observers.
- Dilated pupils, blurred vision
- Increased body temperature (hyperthermia), hot flashes
- Fast pulse, pounding heart
- Water retention, possibly resulting in water intoxication after excessive drinking (read more)
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- Difficulty passing urine, the so called e-wee
- Muscle pains or even muscle disintegration (rhabdomyolysis) with blood in the urine
- Increased blood clotting (disseminated intravascular coagulation).
- Increased blood pressure
- Acute kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Numbness in the fingertips, possibly caused by dehydration and hyperventilation due to excessive activity
Life-Threatening Ecstasy Side Effects
- Vigorous dancing can cause hyperthermia and excessive sweating, which may lead to heat stroke.
- Anaphylactic reaction (severe allergic reaction) to MDMA or other substances in the pill is possible. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and itchy hives.
- Water intoxication. Increased sense of thirst and decreased sense of hunger can make an ecstasy user to drink massive amounts of water and eat no food (and therefore consume no sodium), which may result in hyponatremia and life-threatening brain swelling (cerebral edema).
- Ecstasy increases the risk of blood clotting due to a process called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).
Ecstasy can be especially dangerous for individuals with heart disease, seizures or asthma. Deaths due to ecstasy use are rare. One of the most common substances found in ecstasy pills and related to death is paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA).
Warning: After taking ecstasy and dancing, a user should drink water to prevent dehydration, but not more than half a liter per hour to avoid water poisoning. When someone wants to drink more, he or she should also eat some salty foods to get enough sodium to avoid a drop of blood sodium levels (hyponatremia).
Ecstasy Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms typically last for a weak but sometimes for several months, even after a single ecstasy pill, and may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to concentrate.
Is ecstasy addictive?
Ecstasy can cause psychological addiction. Regular users quickly develop tolerance to ecstasy, so they tend to take larger doses with time or start to use stronger drugs.
Pure MDMA is probably not physically addictive, but the added substances, such as methamphetamine, can be.
Ecstasy Abuse Complications
Long-term ecstasy consumers may develop sleep apnea, that is frequent breathing pauses during sleep, which can result in daytime sleepiness.
Brain damage and memory loss are two other possible effects of ecstasy abuse, which might not be related to the dose or period of taking the drug.