Street Drugs: Ecstasy

Recreational drug consumption is rising in young people and becoming a regular habit for many. The number of 16 to 24-year-olds using ecstasy in the past year has risen a 25%.You’re more than likely to come across or be offered illegal substances during your late teens and twenties and while it might all seem like a bit of a laugh, it’s important to know the facts about what you’re being offered. In 2014/15 the CSEW found that 7.6% of young adults aged 16 to 24 had taken a Class A drug in the last year, equating to 474,000 people. Since you’ll more than likely be faced with a choice of yes or no in the near future, we thought we’d lay out the facts for you.

There are three main categories of recreational drugs:

Stimulants – Make you feel confident, alert and energetic. They raise your body temperature and put pressure on your heart. Examples are cocaine, speed, ecstasy and mephedrone.

Depressants – Make you feel relaxed and chilled out, however they slow your heart rate and breathing which can be fatal. These include alcohol, cannabis and ketamine.

Hallucinogens – Make reality appear distorted by affecting the way your senses perceive things. Your sense of movement and time are altered. Sound and colours can appear more vivid and intense and things may appear which do not exist.

As ecstasy use is on the rise, we’ve gathered some facts for you.


Ecstasy tablets are manufactured to look appealing. Photo via Wikipedia

Ecstasy (class A)

Also known as pills, sweets, XTC, swedgers, eccies, disco biscuits, smarties, love hearts, super marios.

Illegal to possess, give away or sell

Possession: up to 7 years in jail

Supply: Up to life in prison and an unlimited fine

What is it?

Ecstasy is a tablet containing a cocktail of chemicals which became popular is the late 80s and early 90s due to dance music culture. Ravers took it to feel energised, happy, stay awake for longer and dance for hours – and they still do today. But it’s not just dance enthusiasts; young people all over the country are consuming ecstasy at parties, gigs and social gatherings. The active chemical in ecstasy is MDMA which makes people feel alert, in tune with their surroundings and euphoric. Consumers feel the urge to move, dance, chat and have temporary feelings of love and affection for friends and strangers alike.

The pills are designed to be attractive, often colourful with a decorative stamp such as crowns, car badges or cartoon characters. They’re usually swallowed but are often crushed and snorted, taking between 20 minutes and half an hour to kick in.

Pure MDMA, or ‘mandy,’ is sold in a crystalised powder form. It gives a much more intense effect and is taken in lines, wrapped in cigarette paper and swallowed, added to drinks or dabbed on the gums.


Ecstasy use is common at dance music events but certainly not limited to them. Photo via Wikipedia

What does it do?

Ecstasy causes the brain to release a large quantity of serotonin, a chemical which controls mood, sleep, pain and appetite. The flooding of this chemical in the brain causes the sensation of being ‘high’ but afterwards the brain is significantly depleted. This means that when the effects have worn off, people feel lethargic and depressed. This is called a ‘comedown.’

Physically, body temperature and heart rate are raised. Initially, people can experience tingles or intense butterflies in their stomach, as if they’ve drunk an energy drink or a coffee quickly. This can provoke feelings of panic, confusion anxiousness and induce vomiting. Pupils become dilated, people experience intense sweating and the muscles in the jaw tense, causing it to move subconsciously or ‘gurn.’ People can risk dehydration and exhaustion and should take regular breaks from dancing, watch out for friends and drink no more than one pint of water each hour.  The danger lies with people who become impatient for the effects of the pill and take another, risking overdose.


This is what a dilated pupil looks like. Photo via Wikipedia

The dangers

The main danger with pills is that they can contain little or no MDMA, with added fillers such as caffeine, speed, paracetamol or anything else to bulk them out. Some contain PMA, a similar chemical to MDMA, which is poisonous and can kill at low doses. It can cause a fatal rise in body temperature.

Drinking alcohol along with ecstasy can be risky because it causes the body to release a hormone which stops it from producing urine. This means you can feel the need to pee but are unable to, causing discomfort. If you drink quickly the salt balance in your body is affected which is also a health risk. Long term effects include depression, anxiety, liver problems and heart failure.


A public warning at T in the Park in 2013 photo via William Starkey

And the biggest risk of all? Regardless of name or appearance, you can never be sure how your body will react to a drug. If you or anyone you know starts having an adverse reaction, even if they haven’t taken anything, seek help immediately. They may have been spiked which means somebody added something to their drink without them noticing.

Conviction for a drug-related offence could have a serious impact on your life. You will not be allowed to enter certain countries such as the US and may be limited in the amount of jobs you can apply for.

If somebody offers you something that looks dodgy, think about the consequences. If something goes wrong, how can you get help? No means no and if somebody doesn’t take no for an answer then they are not showing you the respect you deserve. Have fun but be safe and know the dangers of recreational drugs.

For more information on the risks related to recreational drug use and how to stay safe, head to Know the Score or Talk to Frank.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *