Ecstasy (or is it?)

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What is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy is a common name for MDMA - a synthetic, mind-altering drug with hallucinogenic and stimulant properties. Some of the street names for MDMA include “Ecstasy”, “Adam”, “Hug”, “Beans”, “Love drug”, and “XTC.” MDMA most frequently comes in tablet form, although it is also sold in capsules or as a powder. Its chemical structure is similar to meth- amphetamine and it is known to cause brain damage. 

Why do people use Ecstasy? 
Beliefs about MDMA are reminiscent of claims made about LSD in the 1950’s and 1960’s, which proved to be untrue. According to its proponents, MDMA can make people trust each other and can break down barriers. It has gained popularity because of its supposed ability to produce strong feelings of comfort and connection with others. 

What are the effects of Ecstasy? 
The desired effects of Ecstasy are an exaggerated sense of well-being and ability to communicate, increased energy, lessened inhibitions and feelings of belonging. Some also describe an increased awareness of their senses and an escape from reality along with a sense of loss of their identity. Negative side effects include appetite loss, restlessness, nervousness, shivering, a change in body temperature, and a strong desire to want more of the drug when coming off the “high.” 

Those who regularly use Ecstasy often find an increased desire to keep using it. Many users describe taking more of the drug or resorting to the use of heroin or cocaine to avoid the withdrawal or “crash.” A crash from ecstasy use can last for weeks after the drug was taken. The withdrawal or after effects are described as feelings of depression, confusion, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety and paranoia. Users can also experience muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. 

What are the Risks? 
Research has linked Ecstasy use with long-term impairment of the parts of the brain critical to thought and memory. Damage to neurons cause motor disturbance such as that seen in Parkinson’s disease. 

When young people take Ecstasy they cannot be assured of the purity. The majority of Ecstasy is 40% pure, so there is a risk that it has been combined with other drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Most users say the effect of Ecstasy is greatly reduced after the first use and describe needing to continually increase the amount of the drug taken to feel similar effects. As a person takes more of the drug, the negative side effects also increase. Research has found that 92% of those who take Ecstasy abuse other, “harder”, drugs as well. 

Signs that someone may be using Ecstasy… 
Paraphernalia associated with use of Ecstasy include painter’s masks and Vick’s Vapo-rub(to enhance the “high”), Vitamin bottles (to store the drugs), and Ambisol, soothers/pacifiers, suckers and lollipops (to alleviate discomfort from teeth grinding). 
Ecstasy most often comes in tablet form in various colors and is frequently branded with names or symbols such as three triangles, the Nike “swoosh”, “CK”, the McDonald’s “M”, butterflies, smiling face, “Adam”, and many more. 

Ecstasy is often referred to as a “rave” drug - people use it to stay up for all night dance parties, or raves. Signs that someone has used include reduced inhibitions, sweating,excessive speech, tremors, sleep disturbance and teeth grinding. Users may also have dry mouth and drink large amounts of water due 
to the dehydrating effect. 

Other signs of drug use include: shifts in personality, changes in friends, decreased concern with hygiene and physical appearance, physical illness or emotional distress, different social hours, use of drug slang, and discovery of questionable substances or paraphernalia in the person’s possession. 

Getting Help… 
If you suspect someone has been taking Ecstasy or may be overdosing, get medical help immediately and talk to the person calmly until help arrives. Signs of overdose include racing pulse, high body temperature, muscle spasms, vomiting, dizziness and loss of coordination. 

If you have been taking Ecstasy, you may find it necessary to seek professional assistance as a part of discontinuing your use. A counselor can help you cope with your desire to continue using the drug, and address triggers for use such as stress, boredom and a desire to be in social settings where the drug is used. Vigilance will be vital - prepare for cravings and have a plan to address difficult moments. Ask for support from friends and family and allow them to be a line of defense for you. 

Drugs are often viewed as a problem when they “become” problematic for the user. Ecstasy use may not seem to be a problem until later when adverse long-term effects such as problems with memory and sleep begin to occur. Be educated about the drug and make the best choice for now and the future. You don’t need drugs to have a good time!