Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Education Centre

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Drug Information

Ecstasy

Es, XTC, Eccies, Pills, Bickies

Description:

Ecstasy is the name given to methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Ecstasy is a derivative of the amphetamine group and has both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. It is sometimes referred to as a psychedelic amphetamine.

Ecstasy does not always contain just MDMA. Ecstasy pills are often mixed with a variety of other substances including aspirin, caffeine and ketamine (a veterinary anaesthetic agent). Sometimes drugs containing no MDMA are sold as ecstasy. This makes it difficult for people to know what they are taking.

Where Ecstasy Come From:

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine was first synthesised by Merck Pharmaceuticals in 1912. It was originally developed as an appetite suppressant, although it was never actually used for this purpose.

In the 1970s, MDMA was used in American therapy classes to enhance communication. Ecstasy became available in Australia in the mid-1980s, and became an illegal drug in 1987.

How Ecstasy is Used:

Ecstasy tablets or capsules are usually swallowed. When swallowed, the effects become apparent within 30 minutes and last for up to six hours. The hangover effects may last for up to 24 hours.

Ecstasy may also be taken by suppository, snorting, smoking or injecting crushed tablets. As ecstasy usually comes in tablet form, it is not designed to be injected. The tablets are bound by a chalky substance, which if injected, can cause blocked veins or other unpleasant effects such as abscesses, blood poisoning (septicaemia) and gangrene.

Health Effects of Using Ecstasy:

The effects of ecstasy will vary from person to person depending on characteristics of the:

  • Individual (user) – Mood, physical size, health, gender, previous experience with ecstasy, expectations of the drug, personality, whether the person has had food and whether other drugs have been taken.
  • Drug – The amount used, its purity, and whether it is taken as a suppository, by snorting, smoking or injecting.
  • Setting (environment) – Whether the person is using with friends, on his/her own, in a social setting or at home, at work or before driving.

Short-term effects

  • Overheating and dehydration, which can cause muscle meltdown
  • Excessive water consumption can result in a breakdown of cell structure, which can cause cells to swell, burst and die
  • Feeling of wellbeing and exaggerated confidence
  • Anxiety
  • Jaw clenching and teeth grinding
  • Poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Increased pulse rate and blood pressure
  • Hot and cold flushes, sweating
  • Nausea

Long-term effects

  • Depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of concentration
  • Irritability

Research suggests that weekend use of ecstasy may lead to a depressed mood mid-week.

There are also dangerous effects associated with the method of use. Snorting can damage the fragile mucous membrane in the nasal passages. It produces burns and sores on the membranes that line the interior of the nose. Injecting ecstasy can result in blocked blood vessels that can cause major damage to the body’s organs, such as inflamed blood vessels and abscesses, blood poisoning, bacterial infections which may damage the heart valves, vein collapse, infection at injection site, bruising or more serious injuries if users inject into an artery or tissue.

Overdose:

Overdose usually results from the body overheating and becoming dehydrated, which can cause muscle meltdown and possible death from failure of major organs such as liver or kidneys. Overdose may also occur from excessive water consumption and retention, leading the body’s cells to swell which can result in brain damage and death.

The risk of overdose increases with a larger dose.

Ecstasy and other drugs:

Ecstasy users sometimes take other drugs such as minor tranquillisers and alcohol to cope with some of the undesirable effects experienced after using ecstasy.

They may also use ecstasy in conjunction with other drugs such as cannabis, amphetamines, LSD or alcohol. Using more than one drug (poly-drug use) increases the risk of complications and serious side-effects, and can lead to a variety of serious physical and psychological problems. For example, using ecstasy with other drugs that dehydrate the body, such as speed and alcohol, can increase the problems associated with dehydration.

Ecstasy and Mental Health Problems

Ecstasy use can cause anxiety, depression, paranoia and psychosis in those people who have a vulnerability to mental health problems.

Watershed acknowledges the traditional custodians of country and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future.

Watershed holds accreditation with the Australian Council on Health Care Standards (ACHS).

Formerly: Wollongong Crisis Centre


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