Ecstasy is one of the street names for MDMA (the chemical name is N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine). MDMA is an amphetaminelike drug with hallucinogenic properties. People taking the drug get a sense of increased energy, euphoria and a curious feeling of empathy. While we know something about the short-term effects of ecstasy use, we do not have a very good understanding of the long-term effects. The short-term effects of the drug are related to the amount taken. If the dose used is relatively high, there is a danger in the short-term of seizures and heart-rhythm abnormalities. Ecstasy also can cause an increase in body temperature (called hyperthermia). This can cause difficulties if the drug is taken during strenuous exercise (such as dancing). The common practice of drinking large amounts of bottled water can lead to a reduced amount of sodium in the blood. This is called hyponatremia and, if severe, can cause neurological problems. There have been a number of deaths reported in people taking the drug.
The long-term effects of ecstasy are less clear. Ecstasy alters the parts of the brain that are governed by a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is a very important "messenger" in the brain and is involved in learning, emotion and memory. The results of studies done in animals given multiple doses of ecstasy show damage to specific parts of the brain related to memory, learning and emotion. We don't really have a good understanding of the long-term effects in people because much of the "ecstasy" sold isn't really ecstasy. So when side effects are seen in users, we don't know if it is from ecstasy or another drug. The studies in animals, however, suggest that long-term use has the potential for causing learning and memory problems and psychiatric illnesses later in life. Ecstasy also appears to have an effect on the immune system.
No drug is free of unwanted side effects. No drug is completely safe. This is true of ecstasy, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, over-the-counter and prescription drugs. We have learned a great deal about the long-term effects of cigarettes and alcohol by doing animal experiments and looking to see what happens to people taking the drugs over a long period. We will learn more about the ecstasy and its long-term effects from the experiences of the users.
What is ecstasy?
MDMA or ecstasy is a Schedule I synthetic, psychoactive drug possessing stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. MDMA possesses chemical variations of the stimulant amphetamine or methamphetamine and a hallucinogen, most often mescaline.
Short-term effects of ecstasy abuse
~chills & sweating
~increased body temp
While it is not as addictive as heroin or cocaine, MDMA can cause other adverse effects including nausea, hallucinations, chills, sweating, increases in body temperature, tremors, involuntary teeth clenching, muscle cramping, and...