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Mdma - Ecstasy - Amphetaminelike Drug

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Ecstasy is one of the street names for MDMA (the chemical name is N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine). MDMA is an amphetaminelike drug with hallucinogenic properties. People taking the drug get a sense of increased energy, euphoria and a curious feeling of empathy. While we know something about the short-term effects of ecstasy use, we do not have a very good understanding of the long-term effects. The short-term effects of the drug are related to the amount taken. If the dose used is relatively high, there is a danger in the short-term of seizures and heart-rhythm abnormalities. Ecstasy also can cause an increase in body temperature (called hyperthermia). This can cause difficulties if the drug is taken during strenuous exercise (such as dancing). The common practice of drinking large amounts of bottled water can lead to a reduced amount of sodium in the blood. This is called hyponatremia and, if severe, can cause neurological problems. There have been a number of deaths reported in people taking the drug.

The long-term effects of ecstasy are less clear. Ecstasy alters the parts of the brain that are governed by a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is a very important "messenger" in the brain and is involved in learning, emotion and memory. The results of studies done in animals given multiple doses of ecstasy show damage to specific parts of the brain related to memory, learning and emotion. We don't really have a good understanding of the long-term effects in people because much of the "ecstasy" sold isn't really ecstasy. So when side effects are seen in users, we don't know if it is from ecstasy or another drug. The studies in animals, however, suggest that long-term use has the potential for causing learning and memory problems and psychiatric illnesses later in life. Ecstasy also appears to have an effect on the immune system.

No drug is free of unwanted side effects. No drug is completely safe. This is true of ecstasy, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, over-the-counter and prescription drugs. We have learned a great deal about the long-term effects of cigarettes and alcohol by doing animal experiments and looking to see what happens to people taking the drugs over a long period. We will learn more about the ecstasy and its long-term effects from the experiences of the users.

What is ecstasy?

MDMA or ecstasy is a Schedule I synthetic, psychoactive drug possessing stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. MDMA possesses chemical variations of the stimulant amphetamine or methamphetamine and a hallucinogen, most often mescaline.

Short-term effects of ecstasy abuse



~chills & sweating

~increased body temp


~muscle cramping

~blurred vision

While it is not as addictive as heroin or cocaine, MDMA can cause other adverse effects including nausea, hallucinations, chills, sweating, increases in body temperature, tremors, involuntary teeth clenching, muscle cramping, and blurred vision. MDMA users also report after-effects of anxiety, paranoia, and depression

An MDMA overdose is characterized by high blood pressure, faintness, panic attacks, and, in more severe cases, loss of consciousness, seizures, and a drastic rise in body temperature. MDMA overdoses can be fatal, as they may result in heart failure or extreme heat stroke.

The effects start after about 20 minutes and can last for hours. There is a 'rush' feeling followed by a feeling of calm and a sense of well being to those around, often with a heightened perception of colour and sound. Some people actually feel sick and experience a stiffening up of arms, legs and particularly the jaw along with sensations of thirst, sleeplessness, depression and paranoia. Gives a feeling of energy. Some mild hallucinogenic effects.

Many problems users encounter with Ecstasy are similar to those found with the use of amphetamines and cocaine. They include increases in heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, chills, sweating, and such psychological problems as confusion, depression, sleep problems, craving, severe anxiety, paranoia, and psychotic episodes. Ecstasy's chemical cousin, MDA, destroys cells that produce serotonin in the brain. These cells play a direct roll in regulating aggression, mood, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. Methamphetamine, also similar to Ecstasy, damages brain cells that produce dopamine. Scientists have now shown that Ecstacy not only makes the brain's nerve branches and endings degenerate, but also makes them "regrow, but abnormally - failing to reconnect with some brain areas and connecting elsewhere with the wrong areas. These reconnections may be permanent, resulting in cognitive impairments, changes in emotion, learning, memory, or hormone-like chemical abnormalities.

What are the long-term effects of ecstasy abuse?

The effects of long-term MDMA use are just beginning to undergo scientific analysis. In 1998, the National Institute of Mental Health conducted a study of a small group of habitual MDMA users who were abstaining from use. The study revealed that the abstinent users suffered damage to the neurons in the brain that transmit serotonin, an important biochemical involved in a variety of critical functions including learning, sleep, and integration of emotion. The results of the study indicate that recreational MDMA users may be at risk of developing permanent brain damage that may manifest itself in depression, anxiety, memory loss, and other neuropsychotic disorders.

MDMA stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin from brain neurons, producing a high that lasts from several minutes to an hour. The drug's rewarding effects vary with the individual taking it, the dose and purity, and the environment in which it is taken. MDMA can produce stimulant effects such as an enhanced sense of pleasure and self-confidence and increased energy. Its psychedelic effects include feelings of peacefulness, acceptance, and empathy. Users claim they experience feelings of closeness with others and a desire to touch them. Because MDMA engenders feelings of closeness and trust and has a short duration of action, some clinicians claim that the drug is potentially valuable as a psychotherapeutic agent. However, MDMA is classified by Federal regulators as a drug with no accepted medical use.

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