Ecstasy is classified as an hallucinogen. It is the common term for MDMA or Methylenedioxymethamphtemine and is similar in chemical structure to amphetamines and some hallucinogens.
E’s, Eckies, XTC and MDMA are the most common terms used in Australia at present.
Forms and Appearance
Ecstasy is usually sold as small tablets which come in a variety of colours and sizes. It can also come in a white powder form.
Methods of Use
Ecstasy is usually taken orally as tablets or capsules. In its powder form, it is sometimes inhaled through the nose (‘snorted’). There have also been reports of people injecting themselves with ecstasy.
Effects of Use
Generally ecstasy is used to dance all night at ‘Rave Parties’ as it gives the user feelings of energy and freedom from hunger. It is also taken to experience its hallucinogenic effects and for a variety of other reasons.
In a 1993 national survey, three per cent of Australians said they had taken ecstasy at some time in their lives, and one percent said they had used it within the last 12 months.
Effects can begin within an hour of taking ecstasy. Most effects last up to six hours, but some may persist for up to 32 hours.
- a strong feeling of wellbeing
- increased confidence
- feelings of closeness with other people
- increased blood pressure
- jaw clenching
- grinding teeth
- increased pulse rate
- increased body temperature
- paranoid thoughts (for example, fear of persecution or feelings of superiority)
Increasing doses can produce:
- blurred vision
- sensations of floating
- irrational behaviour
- convulsions (fits)
‘hangover effect’ including:
- loss of appetite
- muscle aches
- difficulty in concentrating – particularly on the day after taking the drug.
Long Term Effects
Most drugs, if used at particularly high doses, over a long period of time are likely to cause some health problems. Little is known about the long-term effects of ecstasy. There is some evidence to suggest that long- term use may cause damage to the brain, heart and liver.
Studies here in Australia and in the US have found that few people seem to use ecstasy for long periods. This is probably because the unpleasant effects of the drug increase as people take more of the drug more often.
In Australia it is illegal to sell, manufacture, possess or use ecstasy.
Tolerance and Dependence
Research suggests that people do develop a tolerance to the pleasurable effects of ecstasy. It also appears that the positive effects diminish while the negative effects increase with increasing use of the drug. People report needing to take more of the drug to experience the same positive effects, but this also increases the unpleasant effects.
There is little evidence of any physical dependence on ecstasy. However, many users develop a low-level psychological dependence with long-term use. Some people begin to feel that it is impossible to have a really good time without it.
Most ecstasy users have no physical problems when they stop using the drug. However, many regular and heavy users will go through a period of feeling anxious and depressed.
Poisoning or overdose can and does occur. This results in very high blood pressure, fast heartbeat and a very high body temperature.
Some people have had severe reactions to ecstasy and there have been deaths related to its use in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Many of these were associated with overheating and dehydration.
Ecstasy is regarded as a dangerous substance for people with medical conditions such as heart or respiratory problems, and for people with depression or any other psychological disorders.
High doses of ecstasy can produce severe hallucinations. People sometimes behave irrationally when they are experiencing hallucinations and can be dangerous to themselves or others.
Ecstasy tablets are difficult to identify because of the variation in shape, size and colour. The most well known have the impression of a bird on the face of the tablet and are known as ‘Doves’
Ecstasy capsules are not so common. They may additionally contain amphetamine and LSD. The red and black capsules are more familiar and have been named ‘Dennis the Menace’