What is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy (MDMA ,3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. It is an illegal drug that acts as both a stimulant and psychedelic, producing an energizing effect, as well as distortions in time and perception and enhanced enjoyment from tactile experiences.
Its primary effects are in the brain on neurons that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays an important role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain.
Effects of Ecstasy Use
Chronic users of ecstasy perform more poorly than nonusers on certain types of cognitive or memory tasks. Some of these effects may be due to the use of other drugs in combination with ecstasy, among other factors. Research indicates heavy ecstasy use may cause persistent memory problems in humans, although studies are conflicting.
- In high doses, ecstasy can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. On rare but unpredictable occasions, this can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), resulting in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure, and death.
- Because it can interfere with its own metabolism (breakdown within the body), potentially harmful levels can be reached by repeated drug use within short intervals.
- Users face many of the same risks as users of other stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines. These include increases in heart rate and blood pressure, a special risk for people with circulatory problems or heart disease, and other symptoms such as muscle
- tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating.
- Psychological effects can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. These problems can occur during and for days or weeks after taking ecstasy.
- Research in animals links ecstasy exposure to long-term damage in neurons that are involved in mood, thinking, and judgment. A study in nonhuman primates showed that exposure to the compound for only 4 days caused damage to serotonin nerve terminals that was evident 6 to 7 years later.
- While similar neurotoxicity has not been definitively shown in humans, the wealth of animal research on damaging properties suggests that the chemical is not a safe drug for human consumption.