Dangers of Ecstasy
What are the dangers of ecstasy? Many of today’s youth are unaware of any dangers associated with ecstasy use. With this lack of knowledge, numerous young people find themselves enveloped in frequent ecstasy use before they know it. Side effects of ecstasy vary greatly. Muscle cramping, teeth clenching, stomach discomfort, chills, and sweating are the most commonly reported short-term dangers of ecstasy use. The long term dangers of ecstasy that have been reported are anxiety, paranoia, and depression according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
The dangers of ecstasy and its long-term damage 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. Because the serotonin is released in a flood, 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 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 ecstasy use. It is clear that the drug 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 the dangers of ecstasy use greatly increase the user’s chance of over-heating.
The dangers of ecstasy have sent a growing number of people 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, the medical profession is still unclear as to the exact dangers of ecstasy use the drug poses to the user’s health. Part of the problem is that many tablets sold as ecstasy are not what purchasers think they are. The amount of ecstasy in a tablet can vary greatly. Tablets have been analyzed and some contained no ecstasy but other drugs such as amphetamine or ketamine. Others have been found to contain some ecstasy but mixed with other drugs or a range of adulterants. Some tablets have even been found to be fish tank cleaners or dog worming tablets.
Evidence is also mounting regarding the dangers of ecstasy abuse being linked to an increased risk of mental health problems, including chronic depression. Studies have already suggested that the drug is toxic to the neurones in the brain, and that it may kill cells which produce a vital mood chemical called serotonin. 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 also shown the dangers of ecstasy abuse may cause users to suffer memory impairment - even a year or more after giving up the drug. 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.