Written as a Speech around March 2002
Everyone in this room could come down to Ybor with me tonight, and for a little bit more than the cost a movie ticket, experience a drug that would allow us to feel free and euphoric while still giving us the energy to dance until the early hours of the morning. Well… except for those of you who are possibly on an anti-depressant, have epilepsy or simply took a few Tylenol before hitting the clubs – for you it would probably kill. The drug I am talking about is ecstasy. With almost 7% of all 12th Graders having used it before, ecstasy is one of the “new” designer drugs that have actually been out since the 70’s but have recently become fashionable, especially throughout the club scene. Of all available narcotics, I have the biggest problem with ecstasy because although the prevailing attitude towards it is that of a “safe” drug, it is in actuality one of the most dangerous. Today I will explain how the drug works, as well as why it is so dangerous and finally what is being done to keep curb the dangers associated with ecstasy. Rudyard Kipling once said that “words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind” So it is very important that my words here today will allow you to make informed decisions and perhaps even help others.
How ecstasy works
MDMA, commonly know as ecstasy, is one of the most widely used drugs by people my age. To understand why it is such a powerful and dangerous drug allow me to explain how it works: The brain is made of billions of cells called neurons. To greatly simplify the intricate workings of the most complicated computer in the world, our neurons pass messages to each other in the form of chemicals and electric pulses. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, regulate our mood, emotions, sleep, even our appetite. Most drugs work here, between the neurons which are sending and receiving the neurotransmitters. Now ecstasy works on the neurons that release the transmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter found in chocolate and warm milk, it controls mood functions ranging from happiness to sleep, and that’s why women with PMS often self medicate with large dosages of chocolate. What MDMA does is cause neurons to flood the brain with serotonin, producing the “ecstatic” high. But how can ecstasy then be one of the largest drug killers in America today?
How it harms
Often taken at all night dance parties known as “raves”, ecstasy is said to enhance the experience, make you feel closer to everyone around you, and lets you feel the music. According to Dr Philip Jenkins, author of Synthetic panics, this is in fact true. MDMA was originally designed by psychotherapists in the 70’s to let patients feel closer to their therapists. However playing with the delicate balance of chemicals in the brain can severely damage the neuron receptors, the buckets of the brain that catch serotonin. The end result: your body’s inability to accept serotonin into the brain.
It was only in the early 1990’s that people began to realize the long term effects of ecstasy on emotional well being. You see, once you have lost the ability to capture serotonin, you have lost that which makes you happy. Not a trade off that I would be willing to take. On top of that, the terrible depression that is suffered later in life cannot be treated with drugs like Prozac, because anti-depressants work with serotonin, and if the actual nerves are destroyed, there is nothing to work with! However, depression is not what kills most of the young people who take ecstasy. They die of heat exhaustion. If your brain is under the impression that you are in an elevated level of happiness, it tends to ignore the fact that you have been dancing, in a crowed arena, without drinking anything all night. In the end, your body gives out and you don’t get to experience the wonderful chronic depression later in life.
Measures to stop/curve/help
So what is being done to save the lives of those in the demographic at the greatest risk: us? To start with, ecstasy has been illegal 1985 according to cnn.com. But like most drugs, being illegal doesn’t stop or slow their production, consumption or abuse. In fact, DEA statistics show an increase in the use of the drug. Does this mean there is no solution? Like so many other dangers in life, the greatest problem with MDMA is ignorance. Ecstasy is often considered a safe drug by those who use it; some even believe that it is herbal. Kids don’t even know what it is they are taking and so fake ecstasy is a huge killer. The organizations that seem to be making the most headway are groups like “Rave Safe” which have taken pro-active but controversial stance on “E”. What they do is set up booths outside of big raves and will test your ecstasy for free to make sure that there is nothing else in it. They also hand out pamphlets on the effects of ecstasy but do not take the parental “Don’t do it because I said so” attitude that very often pushes away the young people who take the drug. Other non-profit societies hand out water at all night parties hoping to curve the dehydration deaths associated with ecstasy and statistics show that they have been successful.
I have now shown you how ecstasy works, how it harms its users, and some of the measures that are being taken to put a stop to at least the deaths that are indirectly caused by its abuse. I hope that some of this information will help you make an informed decision one day about MDMA or to at least help someone else realize how much pain this “safe” drug can cause. Your brain is the most important part of your body, no matter what a fashion magazine will tell you, so look after it. 400 years ago Sir Francis Bacon said “Seek first the good things of the mind, and the rest will either be supplied or its loss will not be felt”, and he is still right today.