Over the past decade, ecstasy has become a favorite drug among young partygoers. It is one of several club drugs, so called because they were once used mostly at dance clubs, bars, and all-night dance parties known as raves. Over the past decade, ecstasy has become a favorite drug among young partygoers. It is one of several club drugs, so called because they were once used mostly at dance clubs, bars, and all-night dance parties known as raves. Ecstasy now is moving into the social mainstream. Some young people and adults have begun using the drug at home and in other settings.1
People are drawn to ecstasy because it increases energy levels. The drug also causes feelings of well-being, affection, and peace. Ecstasy makes the senses more intense as well—sights become more vivid, smells more intense, and touch more pleasurable. Some users see ecstasy as a harmless social aid, viewing it as a safe substitute for other drugs.2
Because of the positive feelings and desire for physical contact that ecstasy brings, it is well known as the "love drug" or the "hug drug." But research now shows that the drug may have a special appeal for people who are lonely. A recent study showed that ecstasy users coped with loneliness differently than both non-drug users and other drug users. Those who used ecstasy were more likely to deal with loneliness by looking to a social network for support. They also were more likely to deny their loneliness and to increase their daily activities. Researchers concluded that people who don't feel comfortable in social situations may turn to ecstasy as a way to loosen up.3
People who are tempted to use ecstasy need to know the whole story. To start with, MDMA—the chemical name for ecstasy—is illegal. It is classified as a Schedule I drug. This means that it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. An immediate danger is that the drug reduces the body's ability to control its temperature and water content. Energized and dancing nonstop, ecstasy users can collapse as they become overheated and dehydrated. Ecstasy also can raise a user's heart rate and blood pressure. Other effects include nausea, loss of appetite, jaw tightness, and compulsive chewing and teeth clenching. Large doses of ecstasy can cause anxiety, panic, and depression.4
As if these problems aren't bad enough, users may feel ecstasy's downside for days or even weeks after they take the drug. After-effects can include problems with memory, mood, and concentration. Users also can have lingering physical effects, including loss of appetite, muscle aches, headaches, and problems with balance. Some physical effects can be more serious—including heart failure, liver damage, and kidney failure. Scientists are studying the possibility that heavy and continued use of ecstasy can damage the brain.5
For teens who are shy or lonely, counseling offers a safer way to break their social isolation. Prescription drugs also exist that can help with severe shyness. Parents and caregivers should be alert to a young person's social anxiety. Providing the right kind of help can prevent the risks that young people take when they turn to ecstasy to boost their social lives.6
1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Ecstasy: What's All the Rave About?, last referenced 2/14/03.
2 Project GHB. MDMA, last referenced 1/27/03.
3 APA Online, Ecstasy May Be Drug of Choice for Those Trying To Cope With Loneliness, Study Finds, last referenced 1/28/03.
4 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Ecstasy: What's All the Rave About?, last referenced 2/14/03.
6 HealthScoutNews. Ecstasy Is Anything But, last referenced 1/27/03.
·National Institute on Drug Abuse: NIDA InfoFacts: Club Drugs
·National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign