Ecstasy Addiction and Abuse

The star on the party scene over the past 30 years has been ecstasy, replacing other psychedelics like LSD as a favorite club drug. This hallucinogen is also called Rolls, Happy Pills, X, and MDMA on the street.

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More About Ecstasy Abuse

What is Ecstasy?

The main active ingredient in ecstasy is 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, also known as MDMA (the acronym stands for three molecules of Methylene Dioxy and 4 molecules of Meth Amphetamine). The drug was originally synthesized and patented in Germany as an appetite suppressant in 1912; it’s being investigated as a therapeutic tool in its pure form to help the terminally ill and those with PTSD. It was criminalized globally in 1988. Ecstasy drug statistics show a dark side to illegal, unsupervised use. Many samples taken by the DEA contain little to none of the active ingredients at all. Manufacturers often mix other substances, including drugs like amphetamine and cocaine, when making a batch, the street version is doubly dangerous.

It’s both a stimulant and a hallucinogen, and it’s popular on college campuses as well as on the club and music festival scene. The ecstasy drug classification is as a Schedule I substance. That means that there’s a high potential for abuse and no medical use despite some perceived benefit when used in small amounts during psychotherapy.

MDMA molecule structure and multicolored ecstasy pills

What Does Ecstasy Look Like?

Ecstasy is more of a marketing term than a realistic description of this MDMA-based drug. The most common form that the ecstasy drug takes is as a colorful little pill that looks a lot like candy that’s stamped with imprints of animals, symbols, or cartoon characters. In this form, there are often very dangerous drugs added to the mix. When it’s called Molly, which is short for “molecular”, it’s a pure white powder that’s snorted, packed into capsules, or dissolved in liquids like water or alcohol. There’s a solution of liquid ecstasy that contains GHB, which is also found in drain cleaners and floor strippers.

Ecstasy Facts and Statistics

Despite the sometimes colorful look and reputation as a sex-enhancing drug, ecstasy drug statistics are startling. While deaths attributed to the pure forms of the drug are estimated at about 20 per year, that doesn’t account for the death toll for people taking another substance disguised as ecstasy. Most cases of MDMA-related death are not due to overdose; medical treatment is usually related to accidental injuries or dangerously high body temperatures associated with overheating on dance floors and at music festivals. Emergency room visits for ecstasy-related injuries or symptoms numbered about 22,849 at their peak in 2009, which was more than double the reported 10,227 in 2004. Hospitalizations due to attempted suicide while under the influence of ecstasy averaged 806 between 2004 and 2009.

People who think they’re taking ecstasy run the risk of ingesting any number of other drugs or potentially harmful substances. Of the samples tested after the average street raid, only 39 percent contained pure 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, 46 percent contained drugs and substances other than MDMA, and 15 percent contained a mixture of methylenedioxy-methamphetamine and other drugs. Some others contain a similar substance called MDA, which contains methylenedioxyamphetamine and goes by the street name “Sally”. Sally is closer in effect to LSD than methamphetamine. It was developed as a cough suppressant in 1956 and predates 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine as the original “Love Drug”.

Much of the ecstasy and MDMA-packed capsules being sold today as molly are actually bath salts, a very deadly psychoactive, synthetic cathinone. A chemically similar substance being passed off as ecstasy is called Bromo-DragonFLY. However, this drug is much stronger than ecstasy. In fact, a typical dose administered in the same amount as one dose of ecstasy is 1,000 times stronger than the usual dosage of Bromo-DragonFLY.

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Who Uses Ecstasy

Since it first appeared on the scene in the late 1970s, ecstasy has been a very popular club drug used at raves, concerts, and dance clubs. Use of the drug rose in use during the 80s and 90s, and it continues to be very popular on the music and party scene. It’s widely used in the gay community, on college campuses, and among teenagers. About 65 percent of people who attend raves reported using ecstasy.

On average, about 2.8 million people over the age of 12 use ecstasy each year, including approximately 4.7 percent of students from 8th – 12th grade in 2018. Demographically, the typical ecstasy user is a white male between the ages of 18 and 24.

Ecstasy vs Molly

Due to the number of other substances masquerading as methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, the ecstasy vs Molly debate may be irrelevant. Technically, Molly is the street name for pure 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine and ecstasy is a slang term for a chemically similar hallucinogen that contains methylenedioxy-methamphetamine or methylenedioxyemphetamine (MDA).

In its pure form, the drug has a small number of harmful side-effects if taken infrequently in regulated doses. Ecstasy, on the other hand, can be a mixture of many substances that can be very dangerous to ingest. However, abusing any illegal drug has potentially harmful consequences.

Is Ecstasy Dangerous?

Abusing ecstasy in any of its forms can lead to dependence and addiction. Although pure 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine is considered safe for human consumption in small amounts for short periods of time, most of the ecstasy on the streets contains almost everything but the kitchen sink. Common additives are amphetamine, caffeine, cocaine, or even heroin, which kicks up the addiction and overdose potential. However, tested samples confiscated through DEA and local law enforcement raids have also found rat poison, pet worming medications, and other substances.

In addition to the potential for addiction, poisoning by dangerous substances, and overdose is the danger of developing temporary, potentially deadly, health problems. The drug is often used in a club or party setting where dancing all night is part of the scene. This has led to many cases of people being hospitalized for conditions like dehydration, dangerously high body temperatures, and cardiovascular problems. When the drug is mixed with alcohol or other drugs, these symptoms may be masked, resulting in seizures or death from not noticing warning signs and symptoms.

MDMA-based drugs can also interfere with medications like Viagra, medications used to suppress HIV and antidepressants. Tolerance happens fast with habitual, recreational use, meaning that it takes more of the drug to achieve the desired effects. Long-term use can permanently affect brain function.

All of these factors make ecstasy a very dangerous drug with the potential to kill.