THE HARD TRUTH ABOUT ECSTASY
Ecstasy, the love drug, X, E, or XTC are all popular names on the street for MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, one of the most popular club drugs in the world today. One of the few illicit drugs not derived from a natural substance, ecstasy gets its name from the feeling of euphoria that most users say they enjoy when taking the drug.
Ecstasy, a combination of methamphetamine or amphetamine and hallucinogens, officially hit the party scene sometime in the late 70s and early 80s. Since then, ecstasy abuse and ecstasy addiction have become increasingly widespread, especially at raves and in urban communities.
Ecstasy is sold in a variety of forms, often resembling candy as pictured above. It is also available as a powder, and it may be stamped with an image, which can further add to its candy-like appearance.
Users claim that MDMA produces intense feelings of pleasure, empathy, warmth and happiness. It also increases sensitivity to music, makes people more emotionally open, and has a stimulating, speedy physical effect, often characterized by an abnormally rapid heartbeat. The awareness of touch is strongly heightened as well, and as a result, sexual activity may become more satisfying.
The effects last 4-6 hours, after which users often feel physically and emotionally drained, many times experiencing exhaustion and anxiety. In addition, many users report symptoms similar to those of depression, occurring for a length of time from a few hours to up to a few days. With regular use, Ecstasy can cause problems with memory and problem solving as well, and has been known to trigger lingering depression in some people. General health and regularity of use play a very large part in the harshness of reported after-effects.
Ecstasy is rapidly broken down by the liver but about 60% enters the urine unchanged. It causes 5-hydroxytryptamine and dopamine, both neurotransmitters, to flood the brain, often resulting in mood fluctuations. Ecstasy use can impair the serotonin system and memory performance, often resulting in permanent brain damage. The level of brain damage experienced is directly proportional to the frequency of the drug's usage.
Other reported side effects are confusion, insomnia, amnesia, hallucinations, paranoia and panic attacks. Long-term side effects include dehydration, hypertension, hyperthermia, heart failure and kidney failure. A small number of Ecstasy users experience liver damage as a result of their drug use if taken over extended periods of time.
LEGAL CONSEQUENCES OF ECSTASY
In the US, MDMA is a Schedule I illicit drug with no accepted medical use or benefit, alongside LSD, cannabis, and heroin. In 2001, the US Government enacted harsh new penalties for those supplying Ecstasy.
- A person who is convicted of manufacturing or distributing 50 grams or more of EX may be sentenced to a prison sentence of 10 years to life and/or be required to pay a fine of up to $4 million if the defendant is an individual or $10 million if the defendant is other than an individual.
- Where death or serious injury results from the distribution of the drug, the penalties increase to 20 years to life in prison and/or a fine of $8 million for an individual defendant and $20 million if the defendant is other than an individual.
- Possession of 5 grams or more of XTC carries a penalty of 5-40 years in prison.
- In a case where death or serious injury results from using the drug, the penalty increases to a prison sentence of 20 years to life and/or a fine of $2 million for an individual defendant and $5 million where the defendant is other than an individual.
With physical and legal consequences as dire as those described above, does it really make sense to roll the dice and chase a high with a drug you know nothing about? Sure, everyone wants to be cool, and everyone wants to fit in. But as with most things on the street, the end result can easily become death or prison...and there's no greater buzz-kill than that.
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