Known as the “rave drug”, ecstasy (MDMA is the abbreviation of its scientific name) is produced in illegal labs. It has similar components to amphetamines and is usually “mixed” with other substances such as caffeine, meth, LSD and even soap or detergent. Someone who buys ecstasy pills never know what they are really buying or ingesting.
Though it can be found in the form of powder and capsules, ecstasy is usually a small tablet. These tablets may have different logos and colours.
- While often confused with ecstasy, “herbal ecstasy” is not ecstasy at all. It’s a dangerous natural substance that contains ephedrine; it has been associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death (Health Canada);
- MDMA was first created in 1913 and was used as an experimental drug to treat depression until the 1970s (CAMH);
- A survey of Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 reported a decline in past-year use of ecstasy from six per cent in 2001 to 3.2 per cent in 2009 (CAMH);
- There have been numerous cases where a ‘bad batch’ of ecstasy has been produced and sold, and resulted in numerous deaths. Most recently, a ‘bad batch’ of ecstasy has been linked with over 10 deaths in western Canada (CTV News: BC)
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How it works
Ecstasy affects the chemistry of the brain; it makes the user overly happy, not hungry and allows them to stay awake for longer periods of time (CAMH). Increasing the dose will not increase the desirable effects of the drug. When the effects start wearing off an individual will likely experience irritability, anxiety, paranoia, depression, etc.
Ecstasy is taken orally and takes about one hour to come into effect.
Ecstasy is known for creating pleasant feelings such as friendliness, empathy and closeness to others. However, it is also possible to experience distortion of perception, paranoia, hallucinations and delusions when using ecstasy.
Increased blood pressure and heart rate, strokes and seizures can also result from the use of ecstasy, in addition to hyperthermia (overheating) and dehydration (lack of fluids).
For more information on side effects and potential consequences of ecstasy, visit the Health Canada’s website.
Tolerance and dependence
Ecstasy can be addictive but does not really create any physical dependence. Users mostly become psychologically dependent to the drug, which means that it becomes more important in their lives and they feel like they can’t function without it. Regular users may also develop a tolerance (Health Canada).
In Canada, ecstasy is governed by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Unlawful possession, traffic, production, and any other related drug activities are considered criminal offences.
What you can do
If you have more questions regarding ecstasy, please talk to your doctor, community health center, a parent and/or school counsellor. If you or someone you know is using ecstasy, talk to an adult you trust or call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.