The Hidden Risks of Ecstasy
These days, drugs like methamphetamine and bath salts seem to be getting a lot of attention from the media, law enforcement and the health field, but that doesn’t mean previously popular drugs have disappeared. In fact, in the case of drugs like ecstasy, use has actually increased in recent years, thanks to low prices and easy access. For teens and young adults who might not be aware of the risks involved with using a drug like ecstasy, using even just one time can be one time too many. They might think that because it’s not making headlines every day, or because it’s so easy to get, ecstasy isn’t dangerous—and nothing could be farther from the truth.
Immediate Health Risks
Although many people take ecstasy thinking it will be harmless, it actually has some potentially dangerous effects on the body almost immediately. The risks of taking ecstasy are similar to cocaine or amphetamines. The drug can cause an immediate increase in blood pressure and heart rate, a potentially dangerous condition, and have effects such as nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, faintness, chills and sweating. In the best case scenario, these effects are simply unpleasant, but for those with an underlying health condition, these side effects can be deadly. And when you take a large dose of ecstasy, or repeated small doses in a short period, the effects can be even more harmful. Because ecstasy interacts with your brain chemistry (more on that in a moment), it can affect your body’s ability to maintain its core temperature. In some cases, E will cause hyperthermia (a sharp increase in temperature) a condition that can lead to kidney failure, liver failure, heart failure and even death.
When you take ecstasy, it reacts with two of the chemicals in your brain: dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals regulate your mood, but when you add an unknown component (in this case, E) it can have serious effects. The problem is you never know how the drug will affect your individual brain chemistry. For some people, the brain increases the effects of those drugs in a seemingly positive way, making them incredibly happy, relaxed and outgoing. In fact, it’s ecstasy’s ability to limit users’ social inhibitions that led to its nickname “the love drug.” However, taking ecstasy can also affect your brain chemistry in a less immediately pleasant way. Serotonin, for example, regulates your sleep, appetite and body temperature. When you take some E, and increase the effects of serotonin, you might find you have trouble sleeping, or sleep too much—or feel exceptionally hot or cold. And when the effects of the drug wear off, things go from bad to worse. Because the drug alters your brain chemistry so strongly, when the effects start to fade you might experience paranoia, depression and irritability.
Permanent Brain Damage
Ecstasy’s effects on your brain aren’t just short term, either. Surveys have indicated that the drug is highly addictive—43 percent of those who admit to using the drug meet the diagnostic criteria for dependence. Of those, 30 percent meet the criteria for drug abuse. Also, chronic use of ecstasy can permanently damage your brain. Laboratory tests on primates showed irreversible brain damage after just four days of exposure to the drug. Not only do those who use the drug regularly perform poorly on tests of memory and cognitive skills, but their brains show damage to the serotonin nerve channels. This affects their memory, ability to sleep, responses to pain and their ability to regulate emotions. In addition to the health effects of taking ecstasy (or any drug) teens and young adults open themselves up to other risks, such as sexual assault, when they lower their inhibitions through chemicals. It’s important they realize the hidden dangers of even the “lesser” drugs, in order to avoid deadly consequences. This article was written by Jillian Thompson. Jillian writes for DrugRehab.org, and has over five years of experience working with those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse and is passionate about helping people to lead fulfilling, sober lives.