Used commonly as a “club drug”, Ecstasy is a synthetic, psychoactive drug similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. MDMA is taken orally, usually as a capsule or tablet.
It was initially popular among Caucasian adolescents and young adults in the nightclub scene or at weekend-long dance parties known as raves. More recently, the profile of the typical user of Ecstasy has changed, becoming popular with a broader range of ethnic groups as well as urban gay males.
Ecstasy produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth, and distortions in time, perception, and tactile experiences. It exerts its primary effects in the brain on neurons that use the chemical (or neurotransmitter) serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays an important role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. MDMA can produce confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. These problems can occur soon after taking the drug or, sometimes, even days or weeks after taking MDMA. In addition, chronic users of MDMA perform more poorly than nonusers on certain types of cognitive or memory tasks.
There are no known withdrawal symptoms for MDMA. However, after effects of the drug include anxiety, paranoia, depression, irritability, fatigue, impaired concentration, depleted motivation, emotional sensitivity, dizziness, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal disturbances, insomnia, aches and pains, exhaustion, and jaw soreness. Some studies indicate that repeated recreational users of MDMA have increased rates of depression and anxiety, even after quitting the drug. Ecstasy users can suffer significant short-term and long-term verbal memory impairment—with 70–80% of ecstasy users displaying significantly impaired memory. Memory impairment is not proportional to the lifetime number of tablets consumed and so, may occur with relatively low usage.Many factors, including total lifetime MDMA consumption, the duration of abstinence between uses, the environment of use, poly-drug use/abuse, quality of mental health, various lifestyle choices, and predispositions to develop clinical depression and other disorders may contribute to various possible health consequences.
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