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Teen Ecstasy Use

Ecstasy (or MDMA 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine), is a Schedule 1 illegal drug, sometimes used by teens. This article discusses the statistics of teen ecstasy use, the effects of such use, warning signs of ecstasy use, and ecstasy treatment.


About Ecstasy

Information about ecstasy is difficult to judge because of all illegal drugs, ecstasy is the one that reportedly is most often adulterated, making statistics, warning signs, effects, and treatment data not completely reliable. The fact is that someone who believes that he or she is using ecstasy may have been provided with a capsule or pill containing ecstasy, ecstasy mixed with one or more other substances (including caffeine, amphetamine, meth, cocaine, heroin, etc.), or other substances and no ecstasy whatsoever.

Teen Ecstasy Use Statistics

According to data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance study (YRBS), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the reported use of ecstasy by students in 8th grade through high school dropped off from 2003 to 2009 in every grade overall. There was a notable distinction between use in 8th grade versus the high school years, with 8th grade usage being notable lower. The lowest rates of usage over the 6 years was in 2005, and ecstasy use has gone up since then, but is not back to 2003 levels, in grade 10 through 12, but has continued to drop in grade 9.

Grade 2003 2004 2005 2009
Percentage of Teens Trying Ecstasy at Least Once
Grade 8 3.2 2.8 2.8 -
Grade 9 10.9 - 5.8 4.9
Grade 10 9.0 4.3 4.0 5.2
Grade 11 11.4 - 6.5 8.7
Grade 12 12.8 7.5 5.4 8.0

Teen Ecstasy Use Effects

As noted above, because ecstasy is so rarely the only drug in the pill or capsule purported to be ecstasy, the effects encountered in those who believe they have taken only ecstasy are wide-ranging. The desired effects include an increase in energy, feeling of euphoria, and enhanced sensation - all of which are found with other drugs - as well as the symptoms that give it its nickname: a combination of empathy, a sense of connectedness with others and reduction of inhibition. In a 2005 study, ecstasy use was associated with initiation of sex prior to age 14 and having multiple partners in the two months preceding the study.

The negative effects of ecstasy use are downright scary, because limited exposure to the drug can change the way the brain works. Research found that only four days of exposure to ecstasy in primates had results lasting a minimum of six to seven years. Cognitive effects can include problems with thinking, learning, and memory. Other results include addiction, long-term depression, anxiety, panic attacks and hallucinations, addiction, disorientation, vision problems, and psychosis.

Life-threatening effects include arrhythmia (or irregular heartbeat); hyperthermia (overheating of the body) which may result in organ failure of the kidney, liver, or heart; seizures, and even death.

Teen Ecstasy Use Warning Signs

Because, as mentioned above, ecstasy is so often combined with other substances, the warning signs may vary widely. The most distinguishable sign may be dramatic changes in social behavior, including loss of inhibition, including marked change in sexual behavior and treatment of strangers.

Other changes may include disturbances to vision; problems with the body's temperature control, including sweating and chills; cognitive issues including confusion and memory issues; mood changes, such as depression and anxiety; paranoia. At the extreme, one might witness seizures or loss of consciousness due to organ failure.

Teen Ecstasy Use Treatment

If any of the life-threatening issues that can be caused by ecstasy have taken hold, they will be the first order of treatment and require hospitalization and emergency care. These include seizures, kidney failure, liver failure, stroke, cardiac arrest, or hyperthermia.

Unlike meth, the withdrawal symptoms of ecstasy are reportedly mild, making addiction a lesser treatment issue. The loss of inhibition may lead to other effects that need to be addressed, including unplanned pregnancy or HIV.

Other effects that have caused psychological conditions, such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, or psychosis are treated in tandem with substance abuse. Cognitive problems may require specialized therapy, such as occupational therapy, if the user's ability to function at home, work, or school has been impaired. Since ecstasy is so often combined with other substances, the effects of those, if any, will also need to be dealt with.

The issues of substance abuse are often treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and experts recommend that teens be treated by health care professionals who have experience working with that age group.



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