Ecstasy is a street term for a range of drugs that are similar in structure to MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine). Ecstasy is similar in structure and affect to amphetamines and (in high doses) hallucinogens. Ecstasy is a stimulant drug that speeds up the activity of the brain and other parts of the central nervous system.
Ecstasy is a synthetic (man made) drug, developed in laboratories. Ingredients are often hard to obtain. Therefore, manufacturers may substitute a wide range of substances when making the drug. It is possible that when you buy ecstasy it will contain little MDMA. Swallowing is the most common way that ecstasy is used. Ecstasy tablets are also crushed and snorted. They are sometimes inserted into the anus (known as "shafting" or "shelving").
Effects of ecstasy
The effects of any drug (including ecstasy) can vary from person to person. Because ecstasy is commonly taken prior to, or during, dance or "rave" parties, the stimulant effects are likely to increase. Hence, the person taking the drug may be more prone to prolonged and vigorous dancing, further exacerbating some of the dangers listed below. The effects of ecstasy usually begin within 20 minutes of taking the drug, and may last up to 6 hours. Some people have reported symptoms persisting for 32 hours after using ecstasy.
There are usually three phases:
- coming up: where the effects can be smooth and bumpy, and users may feel a rush
- plateau: where the user may feel good, happy, relaxed
- coming down: where the user may feel physically exhausted, depressed, irritable.
Research indicates that few people tend to use ecstasy for a long time. This is possibly due to the severity of undesirable effects, which tend to increase the longer ecstasy use continues, while the pleasurable effects diminish. A person taking ecstasy regularly may find that they are not eating or sleeping enough and are neglecting their health. They may become "run down", have reduced energy levels and be more susceptible to colds, 'flu and infections.
Tolerance and dependence
There is evidence that people can become psychologically dependent on ecstasy and it can be very difficult for them to stop or decrease their use. Physical dependence occurs when a person's body gets used to functioning with the drug present. At present, there is no conclusive evidence that people can become physically dependent on ecstasy.
Sources of information: DrugInfo Clearinghouse - Australian Drug Foundation
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