What is ecstasy?
Ecstasy is a synthetically made drug most commonly produced in tablet form and is a stimulant that makes those taking it feel full of energy. The main ingredient in ecstasy is MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) which is known for its stimulant and psychedelic properties. Powder MDMA is reported to be popular in Dublin 15.
Ecstasy tablets are sold in a variety of colours and usually have a design printed on it which then becomes the pills brand name – Yellow Lions, Monkeys, Green Grenades.
Very few ecstasy tablets are pure ecstasy. They may contain a variety of different substances - from LSD, cocaine, amphetamine, rat poison, caffeine, dog deworming substances, etc. – to name but a few. The user rarely knows what they are really taking which makes this drug particularly dangerous.
How is ecstasy taken?
Once an ecstasy tablet is swallowed, it may take 20 to 60 minutes to “come up” to feel the effects of the drug that can last for hours. Several tablets are usually consumed throughout the drug taking session to maintain the high. Due to poor quality ecstasy tablets, young people in Dublin 15 report using as many as seven tablets in one session. It is one of the main problem drugs for untreated drug users and treated drug users under 18 years old in Dublin 15.
With all highs there is an inevitable low or “come down” when the effects of this drug wear off, it has several side-effects including depression, exhaustion, inability to sleep, loss of appetite to name but a few. This can result in other drugs being taken to help manage this.
“Ecstasy...cocaine...and I’d take benzo’s, weed to come down.”
- Participant 129, Treated drug user. DATMS research report 2016.
Where is ecstacy taken?
Ecstasy is a popular nightclub and party drug usually taken in clubs and house parties. It is commonly used at raves as the drugs give a heightened perception and feeling with the music.
Why is ecstasy used?
People take ecstasy as it delivers an energizing effect that people crave to enable them to party all night. Ecstasy releases serotonin which can cause enhanced enjoyment and creates a warm friendly feeling towards other people as well as lowering inhibitions. It is also known as ‘the love drug.’
Ecstasy is also taken for nostalgic reasons. DATMS 2016 report confirms that ‘old clubbers’ who raved in the 1980’s and 1990’s still used drugs such as ecstasy at the weekend but less frequently - they may take the pills one weekend a month.
Normalisation of taking ecstasy is another contributing factor. In some peer groups there is a mentality of ‘everyone is doing it, so why not us.’
“With ecstasy and cocaine it’s so normalised, it’s not seen as something bad, I know people who would come out of clubs and they would be like yeah I’ve just done some ketamine. It’s the same as saying I’ve just done a tequila shot.”
- Participant 156, Young person. DATMS report 2016.
Cost is another factor that makes ecstasy the drug of choice.
“Ecstasy...it’s an average of €2 a pill, so they find it easier to access...And you don’t need ID. So it’s actually easier for them and cheaper for them at the weekends to use ecstasy than it is to use...alcohol.”
- Participant 93, Service. DATMS 2016 report
Effects of using ecstasy:
Ecstasy raises your body's temperature and boosts your energy levels to encourage you to be energetic for long periods of time that may lead to dehydration - for example, dancing in a club all night. In extreme cases dehydration can cause unconsciousness, coma and even death. Drinking too much water can have serious consequences such as swelling of the brain that can cause a coma. Water should be sipped slowly and regularly.
More dangers with taking ecstasy include blood clots, heart attack, asthma attack and overheating. Literally, pints of bodily fluids can be sweated out and this with an increased body temperature could lead to blood clotting. Symptoms of heat stroke include; heat cramps in arms, legs and back, dizziness, headache, vomiting, fainting, sudden attacks of extreme fatigue and irritability.
Taking large amounts of ecstasy may cause feelings of panic, anxiety and confusion. Other unpleasant side effects include dry mouth, nausea, depression, pupil dilation, tremors, blurred vision. Body stiffness also occurs with many users resulting in a clenched jaw causing people to grind their teeth and bite their lips excessively.
Treatment for ecstasy:
Counseling or psychotherapy is available from treatment centers such as Genesis in Dublin 15. Alternatively, you can Freephone the HSE Drugs hotline: 1800 459 459. Make an appointment with your local GP for support and recommendations on how best to help you.