The Serotonin Syndrome

Even the most clueless among us know about ecstasy today; thanks to news and the media who have labeled it a thrill pill and love drug, and proclaimed it Americas newest drug problem. Although many therapists are praising it, researchers are also knocking it. All together, they have found that ecstasy, a drug similar to MDMA, has short and long term effects on the brain that vary from person to person.

Ecstasy is a street term for a range of drugs that are similar in structure to Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA. Ecstasy is similar in structure and affect to amphetamines and hallucinogens. Amphetamines, or speed, are stimulants that speed up activity in the nervous system. Hallucinogens, such as LSD, typically affect perception and can cause things to be seen or heard that dont really exist, or things that are distorted. Ecstasy is illegal, and its ingredients are often hard to get. Therefore, manufactures my substitute a wide range of substances when making the drug. There is a chance that when you buy ecstasy it will contain little MDMA. Like other illegally manufactured drugs, such as speed, there are no controls of factors such as strength and hygiene of the drug. The increases the chances of a person overdosing, being poisoned or experience other adverse reactions after taking the drug.

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Swallowing ecstasy is the most common way to use it, even though it can taste foul. Ecstasy tablets can be various sizes, shapes and designs such as playboy bunnies or tulips. The tablets can be crushed and snorted. They may also be inserted into the anus from where the drug is absorbed. This way is often referred to as shafting or shelving. Today, injecting ecstasy is becoming more popular. The immediate effects usually begin within 20 minutes of taking the drug and may last up to 6 hours. Some people have reported some symptoms persisting for 32 hours after using ecstasy. Many people have experienced effects such as increased heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. The user also experiences increased confidence and feelings of well being. Jaw clenching, teeth grinding and anxiety are also common. Symptoms on nausea and a loss of appetite are sometimes more likely to occur than thought of. These effects usually come up in a course of three phases: coming up, the plateau and coming down. In coming up, the effects can be smooth and bumpy and users may feel a rush. The plateau consists of the user feeling good, happy and relaxed. While coming down, the user may feel physically exhausted, depressed and irritable. Higher quantities of ecstasy dont appear to enhance the desirable effect and may cause convulsions, vomiting, floating sensations, irrational or bizarre behavior, and hallucinations. In the come down, insomnia, depression, anxiety, paranoia, fatigue and difficulty concentrating are many common effects. These effects usually begin the day after taking the drug and can last for several days.

After the come down from the synthetic drug, many problems users encounter with ecstasy are similar to those found with the use of amphetamines and cocaine. Some of the short-term effects are very similar to the immediate effects of ecstasy. They include increases in heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, chills, sweating, and such psychological problems as confusion, depression, sleep problems, craving, severe anxiety, paranoia, and psychotic episodes. Ecstasy’s chemical cousin, MDA, destroys cells that produce Serotonin in the brain. These cells play a direct roll in regulating aggression, mood, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. Methamphetamine, also similar to ecstasy, damages brain cells that produce dopamine. Scientists have now shown that Ecstasy not only makes the brain’s nerve branches and endings degenerate, but also makes them “regrow, but abnormally – failing to reconnect with some brain areas and connecting elsewhere with the wrong areas. These reconnections may be permanent, resulting in cognitive impairments, changes in emotion, learning, memory, or hormone-like chemical abnormalities.

The effects of long-term MDMA use are just beginning to undergo scientific analysis. In 1998, the National Institute of Mental Health conducted a study of a small group of habitual MDMA users who were abstaining from use. The study revealed that the abstinent users suffered damage to the neurons

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