What is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy, e, or XTC, is a drug that combines some of the effects of hallucinogens and LSD with other stimulants as amphetamines. The result is a total distortion of the user’s mental outlook! The user has great energy to go without sleep or food.

A Large Family
The chemical name for Ecstasy is methylene-dioxymetyhamphetamine.
MDMA is just one of 179 members of a family of drugs known as MDA’s, which are derived from the oils of nutmeg, sassafras, saffron, and crocus. Scientists are able to restructure the molecules of MDA elements to create a dramatic array of drugs. Depending on how these molecules are arranged, the effects of the drug create
unusual user confidence and a general energy boost to the EGO! This prompts them
to feel that they can do anything, including fly!

The Effects
The initial effects of Ecstasy begin about twenty minutes to an hour after the user swallows a pill. These effects are like those of amphetamines: the user feels more energetic and less inclined to hunger or fatigue. At the same time, the drug raises the blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. Ecstasy users sometimes describe sensations associated with nervousness, such as butterflies in the stomach and tingling.
These reactions soon fade and the user begins to feel happy and confident. This comfortable feeling can border on euphoria as well as a sense of serenity and closeness to people around them. The effects peak at about two hours and slowly wind down for another two to four hours. Although Ecstasy is sometimes described as a mild hallucinogen, it is very rare for a user to hallucinate. Sometimes, however, users tend to exhibit behavior, such as shaking the head over and over. The setting in which Ecstasy is usually taken, a loud dance floor, can encourage such impulses.

The Allure of Ecstasy
In some circles, Ecstasy is called the love drug. This nickname reflects one of the main attractions of Ecstasy, the way it seems linked to feeling good and a sense of shared purpose. Many Ecstasy users refer to being loved-up when describing the effects of the drug.

An important clue about the popularity of Ecstasy is that it is a drug that people prefer to take together. The word inclusiveness is sometimes used to describe Ecstasy, referring to the feeling that everyone in a large group is somehow part of a team. The sense of well-being produced by the drug is often strengthened by the sight of dozens of other young people sharing the same experience.
It is this feeling of togetherness and shared sensations that makes dance clubs such a popular venue for taking Ecstasy. Whereas a similar number of people drinking alcohol could turn aggressive or violent, an Ecstasy crowd is more likely to bask in a collective sense of affection. For this reason, women tend to feel less threatened in an Ecstasy setting.

The Dangers
As with some other drugs, the user’s experience with Ecstasy depends on his or her frame of mind before taking the drug. An unsettled mood or a sense of anxiety about the surroundings can lead to a bad trip, an experience in which the user feels panicky and out of control. In addition, people who use Ecstasy only during weekends report feeling down or very depressed in the middle of the week.

The other negative effects of Ecstasy include medical complications. There is mounting evidence that regular use of the drug can cause liver damage. And if a dose of Ecstasy makes the user’s blood pressure skyrocket, the heart can be strained to the point of failure. Most importantly, dehydration associated with Ecstasy can lead to heatstroke, respiratory collapse, and kidney failure.

The word addictive triggers concern in many people, especially parents who think their children might be involved with Ecstasy. It represents the ultimate danger of drug abuse, of being drawn into a spiral of increased use, craving, desperation, criminal activity, and possible overdose.

Clearer Definitions
Doctors and drug counselors, however, prefer to use the term dependence when discussing the regular use of a drug. A number of different factors can contribute to either a physical or psychological dependence. Physical dependence is usually linked to the idea of tolerance, meaning that the body needs to have increasing amounts of a drug for it to have the same effect. The body begins to expect this increased amount and goes through withdrawal if supplies stop. Alcohol and Heroin are good examples of drugs that promote physical dependence. Psychological dependence, as the name suggests, has to do with the user’s perceived need for the drug to cope with stress or difficult situations. Alcohol also produces a psychological dependence, as do cocaine and amphetamines.

Ecstasy Withdrawal
Dependence on Ecstasy does not jive with these textbook examples. It does, however, lead to a certain amount of tolerance. Ecstasy is very much addictive and will cause deep depression and high anxiety! Some of these psychological reactions relate to what doctors call the rebound effect of drugs, meaning that they eventually lead to sensations that are exactly opposite to those they first provided. Heroin, which first time users experience as a stress-free comfort blanket, eventually leads to a panic and near-desperation. Amphetamines, which are noted for supplying energy, can end up draining a user of all energy reserves. Ecstasy, too, eventually produces anxiety, fatigue, and depression in the person who at first found care-free excitement and energy.
The trance-like state that Ecstasy induces, with its heightened sense of color and sound, causes some people to take the drug regularly.

Ecstasy’s History

Although it appears very much in the headlines these days, Ecstasy has had a checkered history in the nine decades of its existence. It surfaces as a publicized drug, and then drifts back into relative obscurity. Its up-and-down history is partly due to the very mixture of effects that makes it so popular among partiers. It increases sensations of color and sound but cannot be described as a true hallucinogen, and it provides energy without the sense of edginess associated with amphetamines.

German Research
German pharmacologists at the beginning of the twentieth century were involved in intense research to produce new drugs for the public. Many of today’s drugs of abuse were developed around that time, in the flurry of medical research. Cocaine, morphine, and heroin were seen as so-called medical breakthrough drugs when these chemists developed them, towards the end of the nineteenth century. However, by the early 1900s their true effects were emerging. LSD, which was developed in neighboring Switzerland during the 1930s and 1940s, was also produced as a therapeutic drug. Such research was often very hit-or-miss. A basic drug would be isolated from a natural source, such as a plant, and then it would undergo a number of alterations as scientists tested for positive effects. Along the way, some drugs were produced that were not intended to be used on their own, but were useful stepping stones in the production of other pharmaceuticals.

MDMA, which we now know as Ecstasy, was one such stepping stone. It was first synthesized by chemists working for the Merck pharmaceutical company in Darmstadt, Germany in 1912 and patented in 1914. Despite widespread stories today that the drug was developed as an appetite suppressant, MDMA was simply a useful tool for producing other drugs. The upheavals of World War I caused MDMA to be largely forgotten as chemists turned their attention to wartime efforts.

Fresh Attempts

MDMA remained virtually unknown until 1939, when researchers began a series of tests to see if it would work as an appetite suppressant or as a synthetic version of adrenaline, the hormone that the body produces to deal with stress. Wartime activity during World War II put an end to these tests, and it was only after the war that reports about the drug began to appear in Polish scientific papers.

The post-war period ushered in the tense Cold-War era, and the intelligence departments of many countries began experimenting with drugs to see if they could be used as weapons. One of the drugs that seemed promising in this area was LSD, and military scientists tried similar experiments with MDMA. Unlike LSD, which began to filter onto the streets because of its obvious power, MDMA once more faded into the background because it was less effective in research. The military also abandoned research on MDA, the more powerful parent drug of MDMA.

The Love Drug
During the 1960s, a chemist named Alexander Shulgin began synthesizing large quantities of hallucinogens and spreading the word about MDA and MDMA. Dubbed the love drug by California drug takers, MDA was soon made illegal because its effects resembled those of LSD. In 1972, MDMA, or Ecstasy, arrived on the scene as a legal alternative.

California, during the early 1970s, provided fertile territory for the introduction of a legal drug that promised to make people feel happy, energetic, and friendly toward each other. Marriage counselors and therapists recommended Ecstasy to the public. It seemed as though the drug provided a way of making people feel better about themselves, while drawing others into the sense of friendship and well-being.

“What I found was a lot of people waiting for me to come down from the clouds and begin sharing in the good and bad of being a real person again. What seemed like a gift was just another shortcut that eventually led to nowhere of importance.” – ANONYMOUS former user of Ecstasy.

The Final Dance

Even during the 1970s, when Ecstasy was building a reputation for producing happiness and contentment, it was still dispensed mainly by doctors and psychiatrists. The drug was banned in Britain in 1977, but remained legal in the United States until 1985. The legality of Ecstasy concerned some people who had been involved with LSD for twenty years. Some researchers continued to believe that LSD could have been a useful, legal psychological tool, if only its use had not become so widespread during the 1960s. They believed that Ecstasy would suffer the same fate if it became a popular street drug.

The Beat Goes On
In the United States, many legal manufacturers of the drug clung to the notion that they were benefiting science and society in general. They issued instructions on how to take the drug and what effects to look for. By the mid 1980s, however, their voices were lost in the loud public outcry against the drug that seemed to be taking young people by storm. Much of the reaction was not just to the drug, but to the throbbing, rhythmic beat of the dance music.

Young people had realized that Ecstasy improved their ability to appreciate sounds, especially rhythmic sounds. Recording companies moved to cash in on this revelation by producing dance music that would energize a large group of people high on Ecstasy. In 1985, the real breakthrough came when House music was developed in a Chicago Club called the Warehouse (which gave the music its name). House music, and its vital Ecstasy element, took the world by storm. However, that same year the United States government made Ecstasy illegal.

“The party’s over. Ecstasy hurts the brain. It is no longer a hypothesis. The drug is toxic. It is no longer appropriate to consider it a recreational drug.”
Alex Stalcup, a physician who runs a drug treatment center in Concord, California.

Who Takes Ecstasy?

Many illegal drugs are popular within a certain social group, or with those taking part in a certain activity. For many people, the path to using Ecstasy lies through the world of all-night dancing at Raves. Ecstasy, like amphetamines, lets people manage with less sleep (at least for the short term) and allows them to carry on for hours.

All Night Long
The link between stimulant drug use and all-night dancing is not exactly new. Even before World War II, people in clubs around the world would take cocaine to stay up dancing until dawn. The rave scene achieves the same result. However, unlike the cocaine experience, which was pursued only by a relatively few people, Ecstasy use seems to have reached a greater population.

Ecstasy has been the power behind the new dance culture because it promotes empathy among users. This good-time feeling contrasts strongly with the aggression that had long been associated with bars, discos, and alcohol.

Brief Heyday, Long-Term Damage?
Use of Ecstasy escalates among people in their mid-teens, many of whom have achieved just enough independence to stay out late. It usually ends when people reach their twenties, or even sooner. Few people in their twenties can afford to lose a night’s sleep without suffering negative effects in their studies or work. For most people, their last E-tablet is also their last illegal drug. However, by that time, damage may have already been done to the brain, body and the mind. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a study showed that monkeys exposed to MDMA for just days experienced brain damage that was evident 6 to 7 years later!

Using Ecstasy

Use of Ecstasy has become much more widespread during the last decade. Its price has dropped, which is part of the reason for this spread. Ecstasy is no longer reserved for special occasions. Ecstasy use is creeping into more everyday settings and situations. In fact, one British commentator suggested that Ecstasy is becoming a “Tuesday night playing darts at the pub” type of drug. In other words, Ecstasy is becoming an accompaniment to all sorts of activities. It is becoming harder to consider any single user as a typical Ecstasy user.

The Ecstasy Scene
However, the overall majority of Ecstasy users share some characteristics. People might be attracted to Ecstasy for all sorts of reasons, ranging from previous experience with hallucinogens and stimulants to simple curiosity. People who continue to use the drug regularly do so because they identify with the Ecstasy scene.
Many people who use Ecstasy, have no idea of the price they could pay for the extra energy boosts that e seems to provide. The body of a repeat Ecstasy user is slowly worn out with each sleepless night, and the way that Ecstasy suppresses the appetite harms its system. As a result, frequent Ecstasy users often feel listless and  frazzled during the day.

Raving All Night
In the early evening, the rivers assemble. The nights rave might have been planned much earlier in the week, although some still occur at a moment’s notice, with carloads of teenagers descending on a deserted barn or warehouse. Just before arriving at the rave, the group takes their e tablets. Within an hour, the effects have taken hold and the Ravers begin to respond to the music’s rhythm. The effects of the drug wear off after about 4 hours, but by that point the rave has a momentum of its own, carrying the dancers on to daybreak.

Who Sells Ecstasy?

In many ways, the distribution network for Ecstasy is different from those for other illegal drugs. Obtaining supplies of drugs that produce a strong physical dependence often means approaching unknown dealers. Many dealers fit the image of the shady character offering something from the inside of a pocket of a raincoat. One must remember that there is no quality control with drugs of this type! That is why many people O-D on drugs that are manufactured in someone's kitchen!

Casual Exchanges
Getting a hold of Ecstasy is a more informal affair. People often buy Ecstasy from close friends or people they have seen repeatedly at raves. The nearest comparison is with marijuana, which people often obtain from friends whom they trust. Typically, a friend or fellow Raver will ask if someone is carrying, or has the pill they want. Very few people, however, actually make the Ecstasy themselves. Therein lies the danger. Inexperienced makers don’t adhere to any tight degree of formula!

A Leap of Faith
Because the production and sale of Ecstasy is illegal, its distribution operates outside any type of legal guidelines or regulations. In any e transaction, the buyer is never sure of what he or she is actually buying. Some Ecstasy tablets have no trace of the drug in them at all, although most samples contain varying amounts of MDMA or related drugs. There is also a risk that an e tablet contains animal tranquilizers, amphetamines, caffeine, or LSD. Drugs experts warn that Ecstasy capsules are particularly risky since they can easily be opened and altered.

“The Majority of people who end up in the ER after taking Ecstasy are almost certainly not taking MDMA but something masquerading under its name.” – From “Happiness is a…. Pill?” Time Magazine, June 5, 2000

Wider Effects

Any widespread use of an illegal drug among young people is bound to cause confusion and conflict within the family, and with non-using friends. Although some estimates suggest that more than a million young people are using Ecstasy regularly, often every weekend, there are still many more that do not. Many of these people are friends of Ecstasy users, and the relationship between the two groups often becomes strained. The same is true among families.

Parental Dilemma
Most parents of people who take Ecstasy were in their late thirties or forties! The late 1960s was a time of intense drug use, coupled with parental conflict and a general sense of rebellion against traditional values. It is somewhat ironic for many parents, some of whom have their own histories of drug use, to face the same behavior in their own children. Apart from the issue of staying out late, the dance scene itself does not prove to be a terrible threat to family life. Parents know that they must separate their disapproval of drug use from other feelings about raves themselves. In fact, a large number of Ravers don’t participate in the drug scene. Ben Wilke, a Houston Raver, says, “Real party kids don’t do drugs. We go to dance and have a good time.”

“After talking to [Sara’s friends], I know if they have concerns about a friend, they don’t know whom to talk to… if only they had some sort of third party, a minister, a school councilor, a place where they can go to tell someone. I think things would have been different if I had been told.”
Janice Aeschilimann if Naperville, Illinois, whose 18 year old daughter, Sara, died in May of 2000 after overdosing on Ecstasy.

A Test of Relationships
Until the drug-use question becomes highly charged, or deadly, most Ecstasy users do not think that their drug use threatens their family relationships. For their part, they do not expect their parents to know about, or condone, the use of Ecstasy. Tragically, as in the case of Sara Aeschlimann or Naperville, Illinois, her parents didn’t know about their children’s Ecstasy use until it was too late.
Sara died of an Ecstasy overdose during her senior year of high school.

Friendships, however, are a different matter. A drug user’s regular habit puts a strain on friendships with non-users. Non-users worry about their friend's drug habit and wonder whether the friend’s quest to be “cool” overshadows common sense. Second, a change of attitude can take place in the Ecstasy user. Ecstasy makes it hard to take many things seriously, and such activities as studying or playing sports might lose their appeal.

Supply and Demand
Supply of Ecstasy has managed to keep up with the growing demand for the drug. Because each pill costs only pennies to make but sells for $20 to $40 per tablet on the street, dealers have an incentive to keep pushing it. This product is highly
profitable for the pusher and they don’t care who buys it as long as they buy it!


Life with Ecstasy

Using Ecstasy involves running risks that many Ravers choose to ignore or to play down. These risks are not just confined to regular users; even a single Ecstasy tablet can lead to death! While it is very uncertain whether anyone has died directly from the toxic effects of the drug, fatalities have occurred from other complications.

Heatstroke / Convulsions/ Suffocation
Dozens of Ecstasy deaths have resulted from overheating. Ecstasy raises the body's temperature and encourages repeated behavior like frantic dancing, which also raises temperature. Added to this is the hot environment of most dance floors. Body temperature can exceed the dangerous limit of 111 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms then include convulsions, very low blood pressure, and highly increased heart rate. MDMA seems to interfere with the way blood coagulates in the body. If it coagulates in the lungs, the person dies of suffocation.

Too Much Fluid
Most Ravers realize that they need to replace the fluids they lose through sweating and increased body temperature. Drinking too much, however, can lead to trouble. Again, the problem seems to relate to signals that MDMA sends within the body. It prevents the kidneys from expelling excess fluids from the body. Water is retained in the body, especially in brain cells that regulate bodily functions such as breathing and heart rate. Symptoms include dizziness and confusion. In serious cases, the person lapses into a coma.

Heart Failure
The third major cause of Ecstasy-related death comes from the rise in heart rate and blood pressure during an Ecstasy high. Although many young people are fit enough to cope with this increased pressure on the circulatory system, others might have even minor heart conditions that had previously been unnoticed. Faced with such a sudden rise in blood pressure, a faulty coronary system might fail, causing death.

Rave Risks

Repeated use of Ecstasy can lead to a range of problems, some minor and others more serious. People do build up a tolerance, and the higher the dose that they end up taking can open them up to some toxic side effects. Among these are nausea, dizziness, jaw tension, and heatstroke.

The Heat Is On
Although Ecstasy is nearly a century old, it has only made headlines for about a decade. It may be too soon to tell how many medical complications might arise from repeated use of the drug, although researchers are beginning to gather evidence that it might cause long-term liver damage in some people.

The issue that has caught the public imagination is the problem of overheating and heatstroke. Both of these problems can arise in a first-time experience, but they are more likely to occur when someone has been taking relatively high doses over a long time. Basically, Ecstasy is a stimulant; it makes users able to dance longer, which in turn makes them very hot.

The drug also raises the body temperature, which makes the user hotter still. These two factors, coupled with the hot and crowded conditions on most dance floors, means that quarts of water are sweated out. The result can lead to dehydration and heatstroke.

Other Concerns
This principle of tolerance to the drug increases the problem of overheating and is also linked to other negative side effects. Research into this matter is sometimes contradictory, but serious concerns have been raised. For example, four Scottish Ravers died in 1992 of brain hemorrhages, although three of them had also been using amphetamines. Equally troubling is the suggestion that Ecstasy might damage brain cells. Ecstasy is believed to damage the cells that produce and transmit a chemical known as serotonin. Serotonin is said to control sleep, appetite, and mood; however, knowledge about the chemical is limited. It is difficult to prove with certainty what harm Ecstasy might do.

The Ecstasy Industry

Ecstasy has evolved from being a drug used in the preparation of other drugs to become a popular drug in its own right. Despite its illegal status in nearly every country, it continues to be produced in vast quantities. Some production is due to the many chemical formulae that Alexander Shulgin and other chemists have put in the public domain over the years. These formulae offer virtual step-by-step instructions on how to produce Ecstasy and other derivatives of its parent drug, MDA.

Return to Research
Even if Ecstasy is nowhere near as powerful as LSD, their histories and the industry surrounding them have run parallel. Many of the same people who, during the time when Ecstasy was still legal in the United States, argued for a pause before letting it go public and are now pressing for further research.

Ecstasy was banned in 1985 in the United States specifically because of the fears that it would damage brain cells. At the time, the evidence leading to this conclusion was based on animal experiments that used much higher doses of MDMA than those taken by humans. The drug was injected into rats and monkeys, rather than being taken orally, which is the way most Ecstasy users take it. For these reasons, the evidence was discounted; however studies show that the doses ingested by e users today parallel those in the experiments.

“I think it is important to recognize that, particularly in the rave situation, there are individuals taking six, eight, even ten tablets over a twenty-four to forty-eight hour period, so some of the more recent patterns of human MDMA use in the rave settings are beginning to mimic the regimen of drug administration that we employed in our monkeys.” – Doctor George Ricaurte, defending his 1980s animal research on MDMA

The unknown purpose of serotonin has meant that claims that Ecstasy can cause brain damage are not the last word. One important question has remained unanswered: just how does Ecstasy affect people? The beginnings of an answer emerged in California in May 1994, when Doctor Charles Grobb became the first doctor to legally give Ecstasy to a human being since its criminalization. Grobb’s findings confirmed several points that had been observed on dance floors. First, Ecstasy does cause an increase in core body temperature, even in the people who had remained in bed throughout the testing period. Second, there is a persistent rising of blood pressure.
Both of these findings fit in with what is described as anecdotal research; the first-hand accounts of Ecstasy users. They also highlight the dangers of overheating and heart-related problems. What none of the research has discovered, however, is just how Ecstasy produces its unique sense of empathy among those who take it.

Altered Ecstasy
These American researchers and others studying Ecstasy, stress that their work is done with pure MDMA. What people actually buy on the street or in clubs is a different matter, since it can easily be fake or mixed with other drugs. Drug agencies have become particularly concerned by the risk associated with this type of Ecstasy. They note that there are two types of Ecstasy being sold on the street. The first is actually MDMA, but is very closely linked to the powerful MDA. The second is entirely fake, comprising of aspirin, amphetamines, LSD, or other drugs.

A California organization called Dance Safe sets up tables at Raves, where users can get information and have e pills tested. The group has found that as much as 20 percent of the so-called Ecstasy sold at Raves contains something other than MDMA, and that 40 percents of the pills are fake.

Cashing In

While researchers have been occupied by trying to get to the truth about Ecstasy and its effects, the drug itself has continued to enjoy widespread popularity. As a result, the Ecstasy scene, sometimes described as e culture, generates huge amounts of money. Some of this money finds its way into the hands of drug dealers and traffickers, but Ecstasy trafficking does not have the same sense of international intrigue, profits, and violence that accompanies the trade in heroin or cocaine.

The Rave Economy
There is, however, a vast area of economic activity that has benefited directly from the whole club culture. The late 1990s saw a move away from the massive, unplanned Raves in abandoned warehouses and toward more commercial clubs. Entrance fees of $10 a head can still generate a good profit for a night club.

The whole culture surrounding the dance scene, with which Ecstasy is so closely linked, has led to many developments in the wider world of business.

While Raves have existed for a decade, the rituals, visuals, fashion, and sounds associated with Raves have recently started influencing pop music, advertising, and computer games. The electronic art inspired by the rave scene has influenced a new graphic sensibility, with vivid typography and science-fiction inspired imagery popping up in advertisements for products ranging from cologne to automobiles. Companies with no obvious link to drugs or Ecstasy generally have seen the potential for generating more sales among young people. Products such as soft drinks, convenience foods, and even banking services are advertised in a way that reminds Ecstasy users of the wacky point of view that the drug produces. In some cases, the packaging of familiar products has been redesigned to be brighter and more carefree in their design.

Growing Concern among Law-Enforcement Officials
Because Ecstasy users tend to keep to themselves at dance parties, there was no violence or theft tied to the drugs, as there is with much more widely known drugs such as Cocaine or Heroin. Therefore, many drug agencies focused their efforts on the more “dangerous” drugs. The Ecstasy scene is becoming more dangerous, however, as the lure of outrageous profits attracts organized crime. In 1999, US authorities arrested Sammy Gravano, a former mafia member, for allegedly running an Ecstasy ring in Arizona. According to authorities, Gravano’s ring distributed 25,000 pills each week, worth $500,000 on the street!

Parents Action Plan

This drug is used by older teens and adults especially around the Dance and Rave Party scene! You should still hold school and birthday parties in your home to track your children's' friends and school mates and any of their friends who have an influence over them! Make sure that you get every Mother’s Phone Number and E-Mail address so that you can be in contact with them!

Special Note to Parents!
Make sure that your use of your computer shows no signs of our websites and any
downloading of this information that they can detect! This is so important!
It may even be worth you purchasing your own computer for your kitchen with a special password that only you and your spouse know!