What is ecstasy?

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Ecstasy, or MDMA, is a type of amphetamine that is most commonly seen in tablet or capsule form, but may also appear as a powder or even a crystal-like substance. Tablets or capsules are usually swallowed, whereas in its powdered form it is sometimes snorted. Often people take ecstasy when consuming other drugs, including alcohol. Mixing ecstasy with other substances can have unexpected effects including severe dehydration or overhydration, overheating, psychosis and in extreme cases overdose and death.  

 

It is impossible to know exactly what a dose of ecstasy really contains since it is almost always ‘cut’ or mixed with other ingredients. Ecstasy often contains a wide range of other cheaper, highly toxic chemicals like laundry powder and paints which are used as filler ingredients so that people making the drug can produce more ecstasy to sell. There is very little thought and care for people taking the ecstasy in the manufacturing process, so the risks are largely unknown and can have serious effects on people's health and wellbeing. There is no sure way of knowing what you are taking

 

 

How do you know when ecstasy is becoming a problem?

Ecstasy is commonly used at festivals, parties and in the nightclub scene where people want to be active and have a feeling of connectedness with others for extended periods of time. People also take ecstasy for the euphoric, energetic high which can last for up to 8 hours.

 

Taking ecstasy will immediately impact sleeping patterns, energy levels (heightened during use, reduced after use) and may suppress appetite. Because of the intense pleasure sensations associated with taking ecstasy, it is easy to start seeking out these highs more regularly.

 

Warning signs that ecstasy dependency is developing can be when you use the drug increasingly in normal social settings, or choose to use it alone. Cravings for ecstasy high can develop quickly, causing people to skip other activities, such as spending time with friends or working/studying, in order to take ecstasy. 

 

How does ecstasy make me feel?

In the short term, ecstasy can affect people in different ways. Just because one person doesn’t experience any immediate negative side effects, this does not mean it is ‘safe’ or ‘clean’. Ecstasy affects everyone differently based on their health, body type, the amount taken, how frequently it is consumed and whether it is used with food or other drugs. Depending on how much is taken and the way it’s taken, the effects of ecstasy on the body typically begin within an hour of consuming the drug and may last up to 6 hours. Some of these effects can last for up to 32 hours.

 

Using ecstasy does not result in the same experience of effects for everyone because of the way it is made. Reactions to the drug vary greatly and the expected effects should not be based on someone else’s experience. 

 

In the short term, users may experience: 

 

  • Euphoria and a feeling of well-being
  • Feeling overly affectionate to others 
  • A fascination with objects, lights or other people 
  • Fits, convulsions or vomiting 
  • Increased feelings of intimacy with others 
  • Increased confidence and a lack of inhibition 
  • Nausea, sweating, increased blood pressure and pulse rate 
  • jaw clenching, muscle tension and teeth grinding
  • Hallucinations and paranoia
  • Risky or inappropriate behaviour

Once the effects of ecstasy wear off, which can be up to a few days later, people ‘coming down’ and can suffer very unpleasant symptoms, such as:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Reduced energy or motivation, restlessness
  • Lack of concentration and focus
  • Muscle aches
  • Psychological effects such as depression

Little is known about the long term effects of ecstasy. Some long-term users have been seen to experience severe mental health problems including depression, psychosis and some memory, concentration and learning problems. Regular use of the drug can cause significant damage to your vital internal organs, including kidneys, liver, heart and lung function.  

 

What to do in case of ecstasy HARMFUl use or overdose

If you have taken a high dose ecstasy or experience negative side effects:

Please seek medical attention immediately if you or your friends experience bad reaction to ecstasy, try not to panic or keep it to yourself. Phone 000 for an ambulance immediately and tell the operator that there has been an overdose. If you are calling about your own use, do not try to hide the fact that you have taken ectasy – be completely honest about the amount, how recently it was used the colour and marking on the pill or substance. Whilst waiting for emergency services, immediately inform a friend or family member who can support you during this time.

If someone you know has taken a high dose of ecstasy or is experiencing negative side effects

If you are calling for someone you know, you can help them by asking them what they are experiencing and what is causing them distress and immediately informing emergency services. Phone 000 for an ambulance, especially if the person complains of chest pains, breathing difficulties or overheating. Report as much information as you can when asking others for help, including the person’s age, weight, if they have mixed ecstasy with other drugs or alcohol and what the ecstasy looked like (pill, capsule, liquid, colour, shape). The quicker and more accurate information that is passed on, the easier it is to help someone experiencing adverse effects from ectsasy. Stay with the person and call a friend or family member for assistance immediately. Usually the police will not be informed and will not attend unless ambulance officers feel their safety or the safety of others/a child is at risk, the person cannot be resuscitated or a crime is committed (such as theft or violence).The priority is making sure the person gets the right help immediately in an emergency.

Reducing the risks of ecstasy

There is no guaranteed way to eliminate the risks of taking ecstasy, especially when each dose may contain unknown ‘filler’ ingredients. If you or someone you know has taken ecstasy, try to avoid: 

  • Excessive periods of dancing or moving without rest; take regular breaks to cool off
  • Drinking copious amounts of water at once or not drinking enough water
  • Consuming alcohol 
  • Consuming other drugs at the same time, particularly depressants or prescription medication such as codeine 
  • Not asking for help early

Legal Issues

It is illegal to manufacture, possess and/or supply ecstasy. If you are caught with even a small amount, you can face hefty fines and a permanent criminal record. More serious offences can carry a prison sentence. 

Many people mistakenly believe that they are able to drive during or soon after using ecstasy. You can be tested by police during roadside stops for ecstasy in your system - driving under the influence of ecstasy and other amphetamines is a serious criminal offence. If you are involved in an accident whilst driving under the influence of ecstasy, you may face lengthy gaol time. 

Getting help for ecstasy use

If ecstasy is a problem for you or someone you know and you would like to speak to a real person to have your questions answered or to get advice on what to do next, call 1300 858 584 (Alcohol & Drug Foundation Information Line). 

 

 

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