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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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'Club Drug' Ecstasy Alone is Enough to Kill

Club Drug' Can be Lethal Even Without Other Drugs or Alcohol
WebMD Health News

Sept. 24, 2003 -- The "club drug" ecstasy may be deadly enough on its own to make a clubgoer's night out their last, a new study shows.

New research shows that one in six people who died in England and Wales after taking ecstasy had not taken any other drug. Researchers say it's the largest study to date on ecstasy-related deaths and should clear up the myth that the club drug is only lethal when mixed with other drugs or alcohol.

"This clears up the debate once and for all -- ecstasy alone can kill," says researcher Fabrizio Schifano, MD, of St. George's Hospital Medical School in London, in a news release.

Ecstasy Kills

The study, published in the October issue of Human Psychopharmacology, shows that the number of ecstasy-related deaths has risen in England and Wales each year since 1996.

The number of deaths rose from two deaths in 1996 to 72 in 2001-02.

Researchers found three out of four of the victims were under 29 years of age and four out of five victims were male.

The study also found that in 17% of the deaths linked to the club drug, the victim had taken no other substances, such as alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, or opiates, before his or her death. But researchers say they are concerned that ecstasy may be even more deadly when used in combination with these drugs.

"Many people now combine ecstasy with alcohol at the beginning of the evening to get a greater high, then use drugs like cocaine or amphetamines to prolong the effect, before taking opiates or high doses of alcohol to calm themselves down at the end of the evening," says Schifano, "and it's a potentially lethal cocktail."

Researchers say death from ecstasy isn't quick. They say it takes several hours for the hyperthermia (rise in body temperature) and brain swelling caused by the drug to take effect.

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