Teens like to party, and the popular use of an MDMA hybrid, commonly known as ecstasy, is on the rise in teens and young adults again, according to a new Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) study release released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). As a direct result, visits to emergency rooms have increased from 10,222 in 2004 to 17,865 in 2008, up 74.8%.

According to the study, most of these emergency room visits (69.3%) involved patients between 18 and 29; 17.9% of those seeking help in ERs were between ages 12 and 17, SAMHSA says 77.8% of the emergency department visits involving ecstasy also involved the use of at least one other substance of abuse. Among ecstasy-related emergency department visits involving people 21 and older, 39.7% of the patients had used the drug with three or more substances of abuse, most often alcohol.

SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde, JD states:

“The resurgence of ecstasy use is cause for alarm that demands immediate attention and action. The aggressive prevention efforts being put into place by SAMHSA will help reduce use in states and communities, resulting in less costly emergency department visits related to drug use.”

Authors of the DAWN report say ecstasy is a public health concern because of its adverse health consequences, and it is also addictive. It says users of the drug need to be educated about its dangers, especially about what can happen when it’s used with other illicit substances.

MDMA, colloquially known as ecstasy, is an entactogenic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class of drugs.

Ecstasy can produce psychedelic and stimulant side effects, including anxiety attacks, hypertension, hyperthermia and rapid heartbeat, called tachycardia. Such adverse reactions can increase when ecstasy is used, as it often is, along with alcohol or other substances of abuse, according to researchers.

DAWN researchers also detected regional differences in ecstasy use. Their report says 34% of ecstasy-related emergency department visits were made in the South, 31.4% in the West, 18.5% in the Midwest, and 16.1% in the Northeast.

MDMA acts as a releasing agent of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It enters neurons via carriage by the monoamine transporters. Once inside, MDMA inhibits the vesicular monoamine transporter, which results in increased concentrations of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine into the cytoplasm, and induces their release by reversing their respective transporters through a process known as phosphorylation.

Source: SAMHSA Drug Abuse Warning Network Report

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.