E is for ecstasy

It’s not just for cracked-out raver kids

Some of you may think this doesn’t apply to Queen’s University, or any other university for that matter. Some of you may also think that only cracked-out raver kids gnawing on soothers use such forms of intoxication. If so, think again—you’d be surprised by the number of students ingesting this Class A drug.

A German pharmaceutical company called Merck first synthesized the drug shortly before the First World War. It was initially prescribed as a dieting aid, while German troops were often required to take MDMA for its appetite suppressing effects. In parts of the United States, ecstasy was used legally in marriage therapy and psychoanalysis until 1985. Due to the increased feeling of empathy while taking ecstasy, advocates claim that a five-hour ecstasy adventure could replace months of counseling.

For you chemistry buffs, ecstasy is MDMA, or 3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which belongs to the family of drugs called entactogens—literally to “touch within.” It promotes the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which in high doses intensifies sensory stimuli and makes perceptions more vivid. More notably, ecstasy promotes a feeling of empathy and is sometimes referred to as the “we” drug.

Depression occurs as a short-term negative effect for those who repeatedly use ecstasy. With respect to long-term ecstasy abusers, there is little conclusive evidence of long-term axonal damage (axons make up the circuitry of the brain) as no harmful effects have been detected in their behaviour and neurology.

As most of you know, ecstasy is widely used within today’s electronic dance music culture—a key contributor to today’s arts and entertainment industry.

How has ecstasy affected electronic dance music culture and our generation?

Firstly, the effects of taking ecstasy are said to be highly controlled and heighten a person’s sensory experience while at an electronic music event. Documented effects include: mood elevation by producing a relaxed, euphoric state, and enhanced sensations of empathy, emotional warmth, and self-acceptance. People take ecstasy at raves and clubs because it makes people feel socially accepted and it makes them feel good.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I believe ecstasy use amongst our generation has dramatically increased because of a simple cause-and-effect response. The rampant use of this happy drug might be a simple way for our generation to deal with the seemingly overwhelming unhappy stresses pressed upon by our predecessors (Anyone for the boiling pot analogy?).

After all, we are the first generation that was told to have our profession picked by the end of high school. If this isn’t enough to drive a person to substance abuse, nothing is.

So what should we make of ecstasy use?

Three years ago during a PSYC 100 lecture, Dr. Change, the lecturer for that section, asked all students who have tried smoking pot to raise their hands. To his dismay over 90 per cent of the class giggled and responded by raising a hand; some students raised two. It was overly apparent. Many university students have chosen to indulge in one of many forms of illegal intoxication.

Like marijuana, if there are no immediately apparent long-term deleterious effects associated with the use of ecstasy, there is a possibility that this love drug could take a similar path as marijuana towards social acceptance. Only time will tell.

Stanley Edwards knows about this sort of thing.

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