Some drug dealers suggest that ecstasy is the perfect drug – creating a huge and overwhelming change in sensation, while doing no real long-term harm. They tell customers that the little pills they sell will elevate an everyday experience from boring to brilliant, and that the drug will wear right off in time for school or work the next day. With a pitch like that, any consumer would be tempted to buy the drug.

In reality, ecstasy is not a benign drug. In fact, it is a very strong and very persistent drug that has been associated with all sorts of negative side effects.

dangers of ecstasy

Who Uses Ecstasy?

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction says that about 6 percent of teens in Europe admitted to using ecstasy at least once during the lifespan. The numbers in America are strikingly similar.

Often, teens take this drug in the context of some form of musical event. When ecstasy first came on the scene in the 1980s and 1990s, teens took the drug in dance parties called raves. They went to isolated locations in the country and set up shop in barns, halls, and open fields, and they spent the weekend dancing, looking at flashing lights, and taking drugs. While raves still take place, they are less popular than they once were.

Now, people tend to take the drug while attending a rock, rap, or electronic music concert. As an overview in CNN suggests, these teens can quickly and easily buy the drug by asking people about seeing “Molly.” That slang name is widely used in teen culture to refer to the drug and how it works. Teens can simply ask for Molly and get it. Some singers even refer to “Molly” while they are performing onstage. That mention could also prompt teens to buy more of the drug.

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The name Molly is the most common slang name for the drug, but it is certainly not the only nickname young people know about and use. The Nemours Foundation suggests that other slang names can include:

  • XTC
  • X
  • Adam
  • E
  • Roll
  • A
  • 007

Related Reading Why Does Ecstasy Cause Dehydration, Increased Body Temperature, & Perspiration?

Nicknames like this allow people to buy drugs without drawing outside attention. People who do not know what the names mean might have no idea that anyone is talking about drugs at all.

The nicknames can also make the drug seem benign and harmless. Something with a folksy or silly name just does not seem dangerous. It seems reasonable to take a drug like this, as it does not seem as though it has the potential to cause harm.

In reality, however, ecstasy can cause a great deal of harm. And that harm could involve the body, the mind, or both.

Ecstasy’s Effect

Most people who take ecstasy do so by swallowing a pill with a great deal of water. The impact of the drug, according to the Australian Government Department of Health, comes in three stages.

During the first stage — coming up — the person may have tight muscles, especially around the jaw. Some people grind their teeth during this stage of the drug use process. People may also have dilated pupils, and they may begin to see strange colors or unusual visions. People may also feel warm, nauseated, and anxious.

During the second stage — the plateau — many of the negative sensations associated with drug use fade away. People may feel happy, relaxed, confident, and alert during this stage. They may also feel quite thirsty, and they may seem sweaty.

During the last stage — coming down — people may feel exhausted, irritable, paranoid, and tense. They may find it hard to relax, and they may also find that it’s impossible to sleep.

The first two stages of drug use may be complete in as little as eight hours, but the coming down stage can stretch on for quite some time. Some people who take ecstasy simply do not feel as though they have returned to normal until a great deal of time has passed.

The Center for Substance Abuse Research suggests that some people feel ill or upset for up to two days after the episode is over. That illness is due to the deep toll the drug use can have on the body of a person taking ecstasy.

How Ecstasy Causes Harm

ecstasy and the brain

When the drug enters a user’s body, it moves up to the brain and triggers a series of chemical reactions. Most of those reactions impact the way the brain releases and processes a key chemical called serotonin.

Serotonin is typically involved in helping the body to regulate temperature, heart rate, and sweat rate, but it also has an impact on mood and sensory processing. As a result, when serotonin levels are different, people experience the world in a slightly different way. But all the time, those other changes are happening deep within the body too, and they can be catastrophic.

Some people experience deep heart palpitations while they are under the influence of ecstasy. They feel as though their hearts are racing, and they cannot gain control of the sensation. Others feel as though their hearts are beating out of rhythm, and without attention, that problem could lead to a heart attack.

The changes in temperature people feel while under the influence could also be life-threatening. The body only works within a narrow range of temperatures. If the body grows too warm, the blood can clot within the blood vessels, and that could lead to a heart attack or stroke. The too-warm blood could also do deep damage to vital organs, including the kidneys. Some people end up dying while high due to the heat their bodies put off.

In an overview printed in The Telegraph, researchers say that more than 200 deaths in England alone have been associated with ecstasy. Many of them could have happened in the midst of a drug-taking episode. But the drug can also do a different form of damage that could be deeply costly but that might not show up on any formal report.

Ecstasy and the Mind

The big boost of serotonin caused by a dose of ecstasy could help to make people feel happy and emotionally available, but that same chemical could damage the mind. Brain receptors for serotonin are very sensitive, and they tend to self-regulate in the face of something deemed dangerous. That means these receptors can turn inward or turn off when faced with too much serotonin on a regular basis.

As the organization DanceSafe points out, that deregulation can lead to depression. Some people who use the drug are doing so because they have an underlying and undiagnosed case of depression. Their drug use could make those issues much worse.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse also points out that some studies have linked mental health concerns to ecstasy use. Those concerns can include:

These symptoms seem to indicate that ecstasy has the ability to trigger an addictive response in some people. That means the drug could do a form of damage to the brain that makes the use of drugs mandatory for the person, despite the person’s intention to quit.

Purity Concerns

While ecstasy use clearly comes with some serious risks, the drug also brings about the very real risk of poisoning. It is hard for anyone to know how pure the drug is before it is taken, and laboratory studies suggest that many pills sold on the street and at parties are not really ecstasy at all.

In Vice, researchers examined more than 25,000 samples of pills gathered over a 10-year period. In samples from the United States, just 34.7 percent of those pills actually contained ecstasy. The researchers said that the drug amphetamine was the most common substituted drug. Many pills contained this very different drug, and many users had no idea that the substances they were taking were not related to ecstasy at all.

Pills are made in clandestine labs scattered all around the country, often by amateur chemists who really have no idea about what they are doing. These people are not interested in delivering a good product or producing a pure high. These are people who want to make money and do so quickly. They will load a pill with anything or sell any substitute they might see fit, and they may not feel guilty about that choice at all. The people who buy these drugs are relying on honesty and pride that may be, quite simply, a myth.

Also, when people buy drugs from dealers, they may be getting pills that are much too strong. MixMag reports on two men who bought pills that typically contain 25-50 mg of active ingredients. These men got pills with 173 mg of active ingredients. These men died.

A Better Way

Ecstasy is cheap, easy to use, and very dangerous. It can also be addictive, but it is not overwhelmingly powerful. In fact, many people make the choice to live life without the use of ecstasy. They often need to enroll in rehab programs to make it happen.

Medical detox starts the healing process. Here, people work with a team of professionals who provide medications, counseling, and other support to help people get clean without feeling ill. Then, the team transitions the person to either an inpatient or outpatient rehab facility.

Rehab facilities are designed to help people understand and control an addiction. Therapy plays a key role in this process. People work with counselors to identify their drug use triggers, and they develop a set of skills they can use to soothe the mind when a craving for drugs hits. Walk through the halls of any rehab, and you’re likely to see people practicing these techniques. They might be:

  • Exercising
  • Journaling
  • Meditating
  • Cooking
  • Creating art
  • Talking with friends
  • Walking in the fresh air

These same people might also be learning how to structure a clean, sober, and protected life. They might get up at the same time every day, go to bed at the same time every night, eat nutritious meals, get exercise, and otherwise build up a life that is rewarding without the use of drugs.

Rehab programs like this typically last for several months, and the experience could be considered refreshing or even healing. People learn, grow, and change in this environment. If you’re using ecstasy, it could be just what you need in order to get better.