More parents are receiving the phone call they dread the most- “this is (local hospital name here) your child is in our emergency room… please come quickly.”
According to a new study released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) medical emergencies relating to the illegal drug Ecstasy jumped 75% between 2004 and 2008.
More than two-thirds of these ER patients were between 18 and 29 years old, but a sizable number, nearly 18 percent, were from 12 to 17, the report said, noting Ecstasy use is increasing among teens.
The study said in 2008, hospital emergency rooms treated 17,865 patients for Ecstasy related medical problems. In 2004, the number was 10,200.
The resurgence of Ecstasy use is cause for alarm that demands immediate attention and action, said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in an agency news release.
Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is often used at parties and gatherings by teens that are unaware of its potential dangers. Its reputation as a “club” or party drug can give teens the false impression that casual use of the drug is harmless.
Addiction, blurred vision, high blood pressure, heat stroke, muscle cramping and kidney failure are linked to Ecstasy use, the report said.
“Amphetamine use continues to be a significant problem for adolescents and young adults. It is associated with significant morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Lewis Goldfrank, chairman of emergency medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
“It remains to be determined how severe the long-term neurotoxic effects may be on the brain,” Goldfrank said. “There is no reason for anyone to believe that the use of this drug is safe at some dose — the risk is consequential at any dose.”
31 percent of the ER visits involved Ecstasy use with at least one other drug, while 17.5 percent of patients had combined Ecstasy with four or more other drugs.
According to the study, 50 percent of patients 21 or older had used alcohol with Ecstasy compared with 20 percent of those 20 and younger.
Cocaine use with Ecstasy was also more likely among people 21 and older (43 percent) compared with those 20 and under (nearly 15 percent), the researchers found.
While Ecstasy use alone can present multiple psychiatric and physical problems, the combination of Ecstasy with other drugs can present seriously ill or life-threatening emergencies.
Parents are often unaware of Ecstasy use by their child, since teens and young adults tend to use the drug at locations other than at home.
There are many website resources dedicated to giving parents, and caregivers, information on the symptoms of Ecstasy use, as well short and long term psychological and physical effects.
http://www.educatingvoices.org offers these signs of Ecstasy use and possible long-term medical problems.
Signs of Ecstasy Use
- Panic attacks
- Loss of memory
- Sore jaw from involuntary jaw clenching
- Grinding teeth
- Acne and skin rash
- General fatigue
- Pacifiers, Blo-Pop suckers and Popsicle sticks are used to counteract the teeth grinding.
- Candy necklaces, Altoids tins, M&M’s, Skittles, Tootsie Rolls are used to conceal Ecstasy tablets.
- Glo-Sticks are used for stimulation.
- Vick’s Vapo Rub is smeared on the inside of a surgical mask and then worn to enhance the dilated bronchi.
- Vick’s Vapo Inhalers is used to blow into a partners face and eyes to enhance the effects.
- Bottles of water are a common sight at parties, used to treat overheating, sweating and dehydration.
- Ecstasy is used at all-night dance parties or Rave parties with techno music and laser lights, concerts and in small groups.
- Users of Ecstasy have suppressed appetites, thirst and the need to sleep.
EEcstasy use can result in effects similar to Alzheimer’s.
Research suggests Ecstasy use increase the risk of developing Parkinsonism, a disease similar to Parkinson, later in life. In these cases Ecstasy is shown to destroy dopamine neurons, the chemical messenger that is involved in controlling movement, emotional and cognitive responses and the ability to feel pleasure.
Ecstasy users risk significant brain damage; damage that is evident through brain scans showing actual holes in the brain. The brain of a young person having used Ecstasy is similar to that of a 60 to 70-year old who has had a number of strokes.
If you think your son or daughter is using Ecstasy, or any illegal drug, watch for the warning signs and discuss your concerns with your child.
Avoid making direct accusations; instead stay calm and rational during the discussion. Ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening. Remember, the warning signs of drug use could be connected to emotional problems or physical illnesses not related to drug use. You may want to discuss the possibilities with your Pediatrician or family doctor, and consider taking your son or daughter in for a physical exam to see if a medical condition exists.