Pubdate: Wed, 01 Aug 2001
Source: Portland Press Herald (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
Author: Joan Herzog
Note: Joan Herzog is a registered, licensed consultant dietitian and
owner of Nutrition Solutions in Yarmouth.


It was definitely a different scene for a newly single mom with hip 
friends. I recall being offered a little white pill at a hoppin' Portland 
dance club back in 1991. Having learned well from my momma not to take 
candy from strangers, I said, "No, thank you." Ten years later, that pill, 
the "club drug" known as Ecstasy, is now a high school and college party 

Ecstasy or MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), according to the National 
Institute on Drug Abuse, combines speed-like properties with hallucinogenic 
ones. It was first made in 1914 as an experimental appetite suppressant. 
According to the book "Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and 
Most Abused Drugs," by Duke Medical Center, some enterprising psychologists 
in the 1960s used Ecstasy to create a state of openness in couples therapy. 
It turned out its neurotoxicity landed the drug on the Schedule 1 list 
(drugs with no valid clinical use, such as heroin and LSD).

Portland Police Chief Mike Chitwood knows the scope of the Ecstasy problem 
in Greater Portland in detail.

Chitwood stated, "Most Maine communities are in the dark. There are 
probably only 30 officers working drugs in the whole state and parents 
don't know what to look for in their kids."

He added that the problem is significant and growing because Ecstasy is 
readily available, peer pressure plays a role and it helps kids stay up all 
night - drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll haven't gone away.

"A real concern is it involves younger and younger kids," Chitwood said.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (800-NIH-NIDA):

In Boston, an older 1996-1997 survey, found 14 percent of male and 7 
percent of female public school 12th-graders had used Ecstasy. (This 
suggests to me the numbers would be much higher today.)

Average dose is 100 milligrams, but the composition of pills can vary, even 
up to 300 mg.

Many of the health risks of Ecstasy are psychological. Parents should watch 
for depression, sleep problems, lack of appetite, jitteriness, severe 
anxiety, paranoia and even psychotic episodes.

The physical symptoms include muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching 
(thus the use of a real or a candy pacifier as a remedy), nausea, dry 
mouth, skipping meals or eating candy, faintness, weight loss, blurred 
vision, chills or sweating.

Classic signs are similar to a fight-or-flight response: rapid heartbeat, 
dilated pupils, rapid eye movement and high blood pressure.

Staying out all night.

Euphoria from serotonin dumping in the brain. Ecstasy is called "the hug 
drug." Irritability the next day from severe serotonin depletion in the brain.

An acne-like rash.

Liver or kidney damage with continued use.

Destruction of serotonin-producing neurons in the brain, thus affecting the 
regulation of aggression, mood, sexual activity, sleep and sensitivity to pain.

Ecstasy has been shown to cause degeneration of neurons containing 
dopamine. Damage to these neurons is the underlying cause of the motor 
disturbances seen in Parkinson's disease.

Long-term use can cause permanent anxiety or mood disorders.

Overdose is similar to amphetamines. Deaths have occurred from lethal 
cardiovascular events - heart attacks or strokes.

Chief Chitwood said the drug is coming here from out of state but sources 
are hard to pinpoint. A U.S. Customs Today report by Dean Boyd says this 
designer drug is made mostly in the Netherlands

The profit for Ecstasy is huge. A dose can be bought in Amsterdam for as 
little as 50 cents. It is selling in the Portland area, according to Chief 
Chitwood, for approximately $10-18 per pill.

One casual user told me, "Being a street drug, Ecstasy can have just about 
any fake ingredient or impurity you can imagine in it. Some of the stuff 
that's passed off as Ecstasy at raves (all-night dance parties) contains 
Ketamine, methadone, LSD, caffeine, ephedrine or opiates."

Taking care of your health means never consuming something you don't know 
what it is or where it came from. Parents need to be on the lookout.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens