The number of hospital emergency department visits related to the hallucinogenic drug ecstasy increased 128% between 2005 and 2011 in patients under the age of 21, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Ecstasy, also known as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) is an illegal drug that acts as both a stimulant and a hallucinogen, producing a feeling of increased energy and euphoria.
The drug can alter the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can lead to negative effects, such as confusion and anxiety. Ecstasy can also cause severe health problems, including excessive overheating of the body, high blood pressure and kidney and heart failure.
A study reported by Medical News Today last year also linked ecstasy to a cause of depression in teens, while other research has linked prenatal exposure to the drug with developmental delays.
Combination of ecstasy and alcohol 'increasing concern'
Around 33% of all ecstasy-related emergency department visits for those under the age of 21 also involved alcohol, according to the SAMHSA report.
In a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), based on findings from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the number of hospital emergency department visits that were related to ecstasy increased from 4,460 visits in 2005 to 10,176 in 2011 in patients under the age of 21 - an increase of 128%.
Furthermore, it was found that a large proportion of these hospital visits linked to ecstasy over the 6-year period were also associated with underage drinking.
In detail, every year between 2005 and 2011, approximately 33% of ecstasy-related hospital emergency visits among those aged 21 or under involved alcohol.
SAMHSA experts say the combination of both ecstasy and alcohol is a "cause of concern," as the mix makes the drug even more unsafe. It produces a longer-lasting feeling of euphoria, compared with ecstasy or alcohol use alone and can increase the risk for potential abuse.
Commenting on the report findings, Dr. Peter Delaney, director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at SAMHSA, says:
"These findings raise concerns about the increase in popularity of this potentially harmful drug, especially in young people.
Ecstasy is a street drug that can include other substances that can render it even more potentially harmful. We need to increase awareness about this drug's dangers and take other measures to help prevent its use."
Medical News Today recently reported on other findings from SAMHSA, revealing that hospital emergency department visits as a result of hallucinogenic drug phencyclidine, also known as PCP, increased by 400% between 2005 and 2011.