Ecstasy drug de jour

Ecstasy. E. The love drug. X. Party pills. If you’re a college student, chances are you’ve heard these terms before. In just a few years, ecstasy has rolled its way into colleges, high schools and even middle schools all over America. Ecstasy has been deemed “the cocaine of the 90s” by experts across the country, and for good reason.

The numbers relating to ecstasy show staggering increases, mainly in the late 90s and into the millennium. A recent survey showed that ecstasy use among U.S. eighth graders skyrocketed by 82 percent from 1999 to 2000. The Drug Enforcement Administration reports 13,342 pills seized in 1996 compared to an incredible 949,257 in 2000. In 2001, ecstasy use cooled off slightly, although there was still a marked increase.

MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is the chemical found in ecstasy. It works by releasing massive amounts of your brain’s serotonin, a chemical that makes you feel good. Serotonin regulates mood, appetite and sleep, among other things. The high lasts about 4-6 hours, during which users report feelings of joy, empathy and the desire to dance.

Some users boast of its euphoric effects.

Users should be wary, though, of the consequences of being caught with ecstasy. It carries stiff fines, imprisonment and felony charges, depending on the amount you are caught with.

Campus Police Officer Tom Roemhild acknowledges that ecstasy is a growing problem not only in Eau Claire, but throughout America as well.

“I think it’s a growing problem beyond the university. It’s a growing problem, in general, across the U.S.,” the 12-year veteran said. “We just started seeing ecstasy here about two years ago. We’re generally seeing smaller amounts, people with one or two pills.”

Even so, Roemhild says there have been some large busts right here on campus. In 2000, a student was arrested for possession of 70 pills, the largest seizure in Eau Claire County.

“Obviously, that’s not a user amount. That’s a seller amount,” Roemhild said.

The student recently pled guilty to felony charges on possession and intent to distribute.

Though highly illegal now, ecstasy hasn’t always been illegal.

It was originally made in 1913 in Germany, where it was used as an appetite suppressant. In the 1970s, in the United States, psychiatrists used it as a form of psychotherapy. Then, in 1985, it was outlawed and put into the C1 category under the Controlled Substances Act. This is the same category as cocaine and heroin.

For a long time, ecstasy has been a staple drug for underground, all night parties, like raves. As of late, however, ecstasy has found its way into suburban, middle/upper class America. Having a wealthy buying population could explain why it sells for around $25 per pill, while it’s made in Europe for as little as 25 cents per pill.

There are many rumors surrounding ecstasy. One is that people often have unsafe sex and orgies while on it. This is not generally true. In fact, the majority of males report they are unable to achieve an erection during most of their roll. What you do on ecstasy varies depending on who you hang out with while doing it. There are 35 year-old married couples that use it as relationship therapy, while there are teenagers rolling all night at clubs.

Does ecstasy put holes in your brain? No testing has been done on humans, so the jury is still out on that one. However, it has been linked to neurotoxic damage in laboratory animals.

Ecstasy is an illicit drug, therefore not regulated by the government, and in taking it the user should know some potential health dangers. Drugs like PMA and dextromethorphan, found in cough suppressants like Robotussin, are increasingly being pushed as ecstasy. These drugs raise your body temperature, while not allowing you to sweat. This leads to dehydration and potentially fatal heatstroke due to all night dancing in cramped, steamy nightclubs.

Like many baby boomers experimented with LSD in the 1960s and 70s, many Gen Yers are trying out the love drug in the 2002. The DEA and media are hyping up ecstasy, almost glamorizing it, which isn’t going to help their cause. Kids want to be rebellious. What they need to do is remember back to the 70s and 80s when cocaine ruled the drug world. As with cocaine, the initial thrill of X will pass, and law enforcement can look forward to a brand new drug infiltrating America’s youth in 10 years.