Earlier in 2019, news surfaced of a 16-year-old boy falling critically ill after he took what was believed to be high-purity ecstasy. The story started circulating on New Year’s Eve. This lead the local police department to issue strict notices against the consumption of ecstasy matching the description of pills seized from the scene.
Besides alarming news, several recent studies regarding the use of ecstasy from the last couple of years have elicited concerning results. Ecstasy-related deaths are found to be at a record high. What’s interesting is the fact that over time, ecstasy-users tended to be older, aged 26 to 34 years, more educated and less likely to report lower income.
What is ecstasy?
Chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception. It has the potential to elicit feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth and disturbed sensory and time perception.
MDMA was initially popular in the nightclub scene and raves, but the influence of this drug now touches a broader range of people, popularly known as Ecstasy or Molly.
Typically consumed as a capsule or tablet, some users also swallow it in liquid form or snort the powder.
Ecstasy escalates the activity of three essential brain chemicals: dopamine, responsible for increasing energy/activity, norepinephrine, responsible for exacerbating heart rate and blood pressure, and serotonin, highly influential on mood, appetite, sleep, sexual arousal, emotional closeness, and empathy. Effects last about 3 to 6 hours.
High doses can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature, leading to spikes in body temperature that can occasionally result in liver, kidney, or heart failure or even death.
A shifting dynamic
New research has revealed that young adults with college degrees are increasingly consuming ecstasy and are emerging as the largest population of ecstasy users. Even though the number of ecstasy users has remained relatively consistent, with about 2.2 percent to 2.6 percent of Americans reported use of ecstasy within the previous year, the demographic of users has transformed. Twice the number of young users with higher education used ecstasy in 2014 than compared to in 2007.
“Demographics of ecstasy users appear to be changing, and this should be considered when tailoring prevention and harm reduction messages to those who are most likely to use,” stated the author of the new study, Joseph J. Palamar of New York University Langone Medical Center. “Most ecstasy users are college-educated and such individuals may not be receptive to typical scare tactics in anti-drug prevention messages.”
The study, published by the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal, also showed that where the perception of great risk associated with MDMA use decreased among users, the ease in accessing and acquiring the drugs increased.
As ecstasy use is found to be increasing among educated young adults, so is the consumption of other rare substances, such as tryptamines, among ecstasy users.
Knowing which population is more vulnerable to which drugs, can help inform prevention and harm reduction strategies from drug use and addiction.
Ecstasy is highly popular in clubs and concerts. The MDMA content drastically varies which exposes its users to significant uncertainty regarding how severe the reaction to using these drugs might be. The sudden boosts in serotonin and then its consequent plummeting levels can also lead to anxiety, depression, and psychosis. There is no quality control on street drugs, and seemingly ecstasy tablets can contain an array of various chemicals.
It is more imperative than ever now to educate young people on the uncertainty and risks associated with ecstasy use. As a concerned parent, it may be smart to start a conversation regarding the increased dangers of using ecstasy. As a young college-going adult, it may be better to stay safe than sorry.
About the Author:
Sana Ahmed is a journalist and social media savvy content writer with extensive research, print, and on-air interview skills. She has previously worked as staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.
Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from the London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. Her recent work has largely been focused upon mental health and addiction recovery.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
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Published on March 13, 2019
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 13, 2019
Published on AddictionHope.com