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Phoenix House American Council for Drug Education
164 West 74th Street, New York, NY 10023, 1-800-488-DRUG (3784), www.acde.org
BASIC FACTS ABOUT DRUGS: ECSTASY
What is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy is one of the most dangerous drugs threatening young people today. Called MDMA (3-4-
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) by scientists, it is a synthetic chemical that can be derived from an
essential oil of the sassafras tree. MDMA is also one of the easiest illegal drugs to obtain. Its effects are
similar to those of amphetamines and hallucinogens. Distributed almost anywhere, it has become very
popular at social events like raves, hip hop parties, concerts, etc. frequented by both adults and youth.
While not all “event” attendees use Ecstasy, the drug often makes the circuit of these parties and can set
up dangerous circumstances that can affect everyone there.
• Clarity, Essence, Stacy, Lover’s Speed, Eve
• Form: Pills – usually white, yellow or brown
• Pills are often branded with designer symbols
Legal or Not?
First developed as an appetite suppressant in 1914, MDMA was used as a psychotherapeutic tool and
also started to become available on the street In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It wasn’t until 1985 that
Ecstasy was made illegal. It is classified as a “Schedule 1” controlled substance along with other
narcotics like heroin, cocaine, and LSD. Penalties for possession, delivery, and manufacturing of the
drug can include fines as high as $100,000 and up to 99 years or life in prison, depending on the amount
seized. Dangerous Impurities
One reason Ecstasy can be especially dangerous is the lack of content control. Ingredients are hard to
get and manufacturers of the drug often use substitutes, mixing other harmful additives with the already
dangerous mix. This practice is so common that “drug test kits” are often sold with the drug so users can
test for purity. Because of the uncertainties about the drug sources, pharmacological agents, chemicals
used to manufacture them, and possible contaminants, it is difficult to measure the toxicity, consequences
and symptoms that might be expected. How is it Used?
Ecstasy is usually taken in pill form and swallowed and it can also be injected Some users have been
known to crush and snort the resulting powder. Others insert the pill into the anus where it is absorbed.
This process is known as “shafting.” How Does It Affect You?
Ecstasy is similar (in nature) to other amphetamines and hallucinogens. It speeds up the nervous system
and acts as a mood enhancer. Also referred to as “the love drug”, Ecstasy often makes the user feel
good, happy and relaxed – at least at first. Contrary to rumors, Ecstasy is not an aphrodisiac and can
actually inhibit sexual performance.
The taking of any drug affects people differently. Depending on size, weight, health, dosage and other
drugs being used, the reaction can be mild or very severe. Anyone suffering from hypertension, heart
disease, diabetes, epilepsy, mental illness or panic should avoid taking Ecstasy. Common Side Effects
The following effects start within 20 minutes of taking E and can last for 4 – 6 hours or longer:
Other Reported Effects
Taking higher doses of MDMA will not increase the good feelings. In fact higher dosages can cause
convulsions, irrational behavior, and hallucinations. Users have reported having problems with insomnia,
anxiety, paranoia, concentration and depression after taking the drug. Overdose
Taking too much Ecstasy can result in:
Death often results from harmful overheating (hyperthermia
), or from drinking too much at one time
). Hyponatremia is a condition where excess fluid intake swells the brain resulting in
coma. A third cause of death is stimulation.
Over stimulation of the nervous system can result in heart
attack or brain hemorrhage. Warning Signs of Overdose
Duration of Effects:
An Ecstasy high can last from six to 24 hours but usually averages three to four hours. Some reactions
have been reported to persist from one to 14 days after use. Short Term Effects
Short-term effects include psychological difficulties (confusion, depression, sleep problems, craving,
severe anxiety, and paranoia). These effects occur during use and can continue even weeks after use.
Physical problems that can occur are muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision,
rapid eye movement, fever, chills or sweating. Long Term Effects
Recent findings connect use of Ecstasy to memory loss. Use of Ecstasy depletes serotonin
, a very
important chemical in the brain which regulates mood, sleeping and eating habits, as well as, the thinking
and behavior process, sexual function, and sensitivity to pain. Herbal Ecstasy
Herbal Ecstasy is another form of MDMA that is composed of ephedrine (ma huang) or pseudoephedrine
and caffeine from the kola nut. Also sold in tablet form, Herbal Ecstasy can cause permanent brain
damage and death. Though not currently classified as a controlled substance, Herbal Ecstasy shares
many of the same qualities and effects as MDMA. Also known as Cloud 9, Herbal Bliss, Ritual Spirit,
Herbal X, GWM, Rave Energy, Ultimate Xphoria and X. Drug Testing
Ecstasy can be detected up to four days in the urine. Ecstasy and Anti-Depressants
People currently taking an MAOI should not use Ecstasy. MAOIs are most commonly found in
prescription anti-depressants Nardil (phenelzine), Parnete (tranylcypromine), Marplan (isocarboxazid),
Eldepryl (I-deprenyl), and Aurorex or Manerix (moclobermide). The same is true of the protease inhibitor
Ritonavir. Ecstasy and Pregnancy
In a study published in the May 1, 2001 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, results showed that
exposure (of rats) to Ecstasy caused memory and learning deficiencies to the unborn rat. As with all
other drugs (legal or not), they should never be taken during pregnancy unless specifically prescribed by
a medical professional.
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