Long Term Effects of Ecstasy
What are the long term effects of ecstasy? Many of today’s youth are unaware of any long term effects 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 the drug ecstasy vary greatly. Muscle cramping, teeth clenching, stomach discomfort, chills, and sweating are the most commonly reported short-term effects. The long term effects of ecstasy that have been reported are anxiety, paranoia, and depression, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
Additional long term effects of ecstasy 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 medical profession is still unclear as to the exact long term effects of ecstasy use 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 instead 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 that regular use of the drug may cause long term effects of ecstasy such as changes in the user’s brain. These changes may be linked to an increased risk of mental health problems like 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 pertaining to long term effects of ecstasy use has also shown that former ecstasy users may 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.
The dangerous long term effects of ecstasy are masked by its appearance, which looks like an aspirin and can be easily ingested, sheriff's Deputy Dustin Lopez said. "What makes it popular with kids is that it is easy to take," he said. Some users believe taking ecstasy is like taking a prescription medication, so they downplay the dangers, Lopez said. Drugs like heroin are seen as being more dangerous because it's injected into the veins. Ecstasy's use at raves and nightclubs also make it more acceptable to teens, he said. "A lot of these kids who go to these things don't consider themselves drug abusers," Lopez said. "They see themselves as recreational drug users."