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Health & Parenting

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Ecstasy Use on Rise Again Among U.S. Teens: Report

Alcohol contributing to ER visits from hallucinogen, federal officials say


The newest form of MDMA, the powder Molly, appears to be driving the latest surge in Ecstasy use.

The study relied on data produced by the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits and drug-related deaths.

MDMA affects a person's level of serotonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles and is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being, said Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Overuse can cause depression, confusion, paranoia, anxiety and sleep disorders.

The Molly that currently is on the streets is usually a very pure crystalline form of MDMA, Delany said. Users can snort it, mix it in alcohol or some other liquid, or take it in a gel cap.

Delany noted that the number of emergency room visits caused by MDMA pales in comparison to the 1.5 million ER visits linked to drug use every year, but said both the rapid increase and the age of the victims are causes for concern.

The use of alcohol with MDMA can create a person who is drunk but hyper-aware, said Delany, comparing it to giving coffee to a drunk person. "You don't want that, because then you have a wide-awake drunk," he said.

For his part, Pasierb noted how Ecstasy's popularity has fluctuated.

Ecstasy underwent a huge rise in use between 1999 and 2001, where it jumped from the club scene and into the mainstream, Pasierb said. Then news of deaths related to Ecstasy began to circulate, and use plummeted.

"We've had this six-year quiet lull, and now we've got a whole new generation of young people who are being marketed a new product under the name 'Molly,'" he said.

Molly presents additional problems because it is a powder, and often contains a cocktail of chemicals in addition to MDMA, Pasierb said.

"When it was in a finished pill, it was difficult to tamper with," he said. "But now that it comes in a powder form, you might have an unscrupulous dealer who cuts it with speed or some other substance."

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