This is often called the original designer drug because of its synonymous relationship with rave culture in the early 90s. Clubbers took ecstasy to stay awake and dance for hours. The effects take about half an hour to kick in and tend to last between 3 to 6 hours, followed by a gradual comedown.
An E gives people an energy buzz that makes them feel alert and alive.
Ecstasy makes people feel in tune with their surroundings – sounds and colours are more intense.
Users often feel great love for the people they’re with and the strangers around them. On its own, it’s not a drug that makes people violent.
Lots of people feel chatty on E. (These chats don’t always make sense to people who aren’t on an E).
It’s possible to build up tolerance to E, which means people take more to get the same buzz. You may also develop a psychological dependence (the desire to keep on using even in spite of potential harm).
There’s some uncertainty about the long term side effects of Es. But evidence suggests it may cause damage to the brain causing long term problems – like depression, personality change and memory loss.
Ecstasy is a Class A drug – illegal to have, give away or sell. Possession can get you up to seven years in jail. Supplying someone else, including your friends, can get you life and an unlimited fine.
Pure Ecstasy is a white crystalline powder known to chemists as MDMA.
Ecstasy sold on the street is usually in tablet form although it’s getting more common to see it sold as powder. Es come in all sorts of colours and some of them have pictures or logos stamped into them.
They’re usually swallowed although some people do smoke or snort them. People have been known to take another E when they haven’t initially felt the expected ‘high’. The danger then is that both Es kick in and you’ve a double dose to deal with.
A big problem with Es is that they’re rarely pure. They can be cut with amphetamines (like speed), caffeine and other substances because it’s cheaper to produce.
Some of the new man-made drugs like PMA and 4-MTA can be passed off as E’s. Their effects can be very different or they may take longer to kick-in with a risk of the user double-dosing to compensate (risking double the side effects).
Physical side effects can develop that include: dilated pupils, a tingling feeling, tightening of the jaw muscles, raised body temperature and the heart beats faster.
Short-term effects of use can include anxiety, panic attacks, confused episodes and paranoid or psychotic states.
There’s no way of telling what’s in an E until you’ve swallowed it. So, there may be negative side effects from other ingredients in the tablet.
E’s can make users feel a bit down after use.
There’ve been over 200 ecstasy-related deaths in the UK since 1996. Ecstasy use is the cause of death in many of the cases but there have been some involving other substances sold as Ecstasy e.g. PMA.
Ecstasy affects the body’s temperature control. Dancing for long periods in a hot atmosphere increases the chances of overheating and dehydration. Take regular breaks from the dance floor to cool down.
And watch out for your mates – sometimes they mightn’t realise they’re in danger of overheating or getting dehydrated.
Be careful with fluids though, as drinking too much can also be dangerous or even fatal. Ecstasy can cause the body to release a hormone which prevents the production of urine. Drink too quickly and it interferes with your body’s salt balance, which can be as deadly as not drinking enough water. Reduce the risks by sipping no more than a pint of water or non-alcoholic fluid every hour.
Using Ecstasy has been linked to liver, kidney and heart problems. Anyone using too much can become paranoid and depressed.
Some long-term users report getting colds, flu and sore throats more often. This may be attributed to staying awake for 24 hours, which puts your immune system under pressure.
There’s research to suggest that the exhaustion and dehydration associated with Ecstasy can activate urine infections like cystitis in women.
Anyone with a heart condition, blood pressure problems, epilepsy or asthma can have a very dangerous reaction to the drug.
No compelling evidence exists that taking a single c.125mg dose of MDMA a few times or so a year is likely to cause any long-term harm to the user’s mental or physical health. Nevertheless, even pharmaceutical-grade MDMA taken at moderate doses in optimal conditions is not a wholly benign drug. The problem isn’t (just) the toxic adulterants used by dance-floor pharmacologists or the botched syntheses of bathtub chemists.