Ecstasy in the ER
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Talk about a comedown: One minute you’re at what feels like the best party you've ever been to, hugging everyone you know and telling them how amazing they are, and the next thing you know, you're lying on a cot in the considerably less enchanting environs of your local hospital emergency room. Well, you're not alone. A new government study shows a dramatic 75% increase in MDMA-related emergency room visits in just four years. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) says that almost 20% of X-related ER visits between 2004 and 2008 involved kids from 12 to 17. What brings them there? According to SAMHSA, “anxiety, agitation, restlessness, increased blood pressure, dehydration, heat stroke, muscle cramping, blurred vision, hyperthermia, heart failure, and kidney failure.” However, the results are muddied by the fact that three-quarters of those ER visits involved Ecstasy in combination with alcohol or other drugs. (Safe to assume that designer-drug cocktails are iffy.) While there's no question about the short-term health risks associated with Ecstasy, the jury is still out on the effects of prolonged X-posure. For years, anti-drug activists have warned that regular Ecstasy use can cause permanent brain changes, even early dementia. But now a well-regarded report from the Harvard Medical School casts some doubt on those claims. The Harvard study, published in the journal Addiction, “failed to demonstrate marked residual cognitive effects in ecstasy users." Before it was outlawed in 1985, MDMA was used by therapists to work with depressed individuals and dueling couples. Now the US military is studying the drug as a tool to support treatment for ex-soldiers suffering from PTSD.