Understanding the Biological, Psychological

Illicit drug use has now become commonplace among the younger generation in today’s society. The advent of rave parties has been considered by many sociologists to be the breeding ground for a variety of illicit activities to take place from underage drinking to the consumption of illicit drugs. It is for this reason that some illicit substances, such as ecstasy, are now commonly known as party drugs. Originally deemed to be a drug that psychologists may use to treat a variety of behavioral and psychological disorders, ecstasy has is now recognized by the U. S. government as a Schedule I substance (Rivas-Vasquez & Delgado 2002; Smith 2007).

The popularity of this substance among the younger generation and the classification it has attained according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, has prompted a number of different research studies to be conducted in understanding the biological, psychological and social effects of the use of the drug ecstasy. This paper would look into the effects the use of the drug ecstasy has on the biological and psychological make up of the individual. It would also look into how the use of ecstasy has affected, if ever, American society today. In line with this, this paper would provide a brief overview about the drug ecstasy.

The Rise of Ecstasy Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), more commonly known as Ecstasy, is now regarded as the most widely used recreational drug by the younger generation. Its rise in terms of popularity is primarily due to the rise and popularity of rave parties during the 1980s and 1990s. The use of illicit drugs during these anti-establishment and unlicensed parties which last the entire night provided the venue for the younger generation to gain access to ecstasy and other prohibited drugs such as LSD and ketamine (Kavanaugh & Anderson 2008; Rivas-Vasquez & Delgado 2002; Sterk, Graham & Elifson 2003).

The popularity of the drug ecstasy and its potential for abuse was brought to the attention of the U. S. government as early as the mid-1980s. As a result of a careful investigation prompted by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on ecstasy, the drug was classified as a Schedule I substance. This classification is given to substances which have been deemed to have a high potential for abuse on the part of the user as well as those which are considered to be unsafe, even when administered by an experienced medical professional (Smith 2007).

Today, the use of ecstasy has now transcended from just being used in rave parties and other social gatherings of the younger generation coming from middle-class families. It is now being used by polydrug users (those that consume more than one type of illicit substance) from every socio-economic class in American society and in different settings (Martin, Mazzotti & Chilcoat 2006). Biological Effects of Ecstasy As with some of the illicit drugs that have been categorized as Schedule I Substances, ecstasy is one which has been manufactured through the use of a chemical process.

Out of all the different designer drugs that are available during rave parties, ecstasy has become the most preferred and the most popular. This is due to the fact that upon the ingestion of the drug, ecstasy causes numerous changes in the amount of serotonin levels and other hormones to be released by the different organs of the human body, which then causes the feelings experienced by its users (Hoshi et al 2007). Approximately fifteen (15) minutes from the time that the drug is ingested by the individual, the chemicals found in ecstasy make its way to the individual’s brain receptors through the bloodstream.

From here, it stimulates the brain receptors to release a variety of hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. This then gives the user intense feelings of empathy, love, happiness, and closeness towards other individuals. Eventually, the chemicals that make up the drug ecstasy bind to the 5-T transporters and are absorbed by the synaptic cells in the brain. Over time, the use of ecstasy would lead to the subsequent depletion of the amount of serotonin that is released by the brain into the bloodstream, which has been found by researchers as a condition that can no longer be reversed (Hoshi et al 2007; Martins, Mazzotti & Chilcoat 2006).

The extreme fluctuations of the serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline hormones in the bloodstream have also been found to cause a variety of ailments that are experienced particularly by heavy users of the drug ecstasy. Some of these ailments include the onset of insomnia, feelings of nausea, high blood pressure, development of seizures, cerebral endema, hyponatremia and profuse sweating (Martins, Mazzotti & Chilcoat 2006; Rivas-Vasquez & Delgado 2002).

Ecstasy has also been found to cause degenerative ailments and disorders on other parts of the human body. The chemicals that comprise the drug cause the body’s temperature to rise. This sudden increase in the body’s temperature can lead to the breakdown of the cells that are found in the muscles of the body. In worst cases, the ingestion of the drug ecstasy can result in the sudden death of the individual (Rivas-Vasquez & Delgado 2002). Psychological Effects of Ecstasy

Because of the depletion on the amount of serotonin that is manufactured and released into the bloodstream as a result of the use of the drug ecstasy, researchers have found that users of the drug develop a variety of behavioral and psychological disorders. Most, if not all, users of the drug have been found to develop increase levels of aggression, which leads them to develop more hostile behavioral patterns. This is such since the hormone serotonin has been linked by medical professionals to be the hormone responsible for the regulation of human behaviors and feelings.

Since long periods of usage of the drug eventually leads to the inhibition of the synthesis of the hormone and, thus, causing the levels of serotonin in the body to lower which, in turn, results to the individual experiencing more frequent instances of aggression, hostility and violence (Hoshi et al 2006). In a studies conducted on the relationship of the use of the drug ecstasy to the behaviors of its users, researchers have determined that there has been a significant increase in the levels of aggressive behaviors exhibited by individuals who have used the drug and have been asked to abstain from using it as part of the study conducted.

The results of these studies have also found that individuals have become more prone to committing acts of violence in a mere matter of days from taking the drug. One study which was conducted on a number of regular ecstasy users found that they are able to cognitively process aggressive and hostile statements and respond to these statements faster 3-4 days after ingesting the drug as compared to those participants who have never ingested ecstasy at any point in their lives (Hoshi et al 2007; Martins, Mazzotti & Chilcoat 2006).

Ecstasy users have also been found to develop a variety of mental disorders as well. According to a study conducted by Lieb and colleagues in 2002, they determined that “psychiatric disorders were more likely to be associated with individuals who used ecstasy than non-users” (as cited in Martins, Mazzotti & Chilcoat 2006, p. 276). Among the psychiatric and mental disorders that are exhibited by users of the drug ecstasy include the development of anxiety, depression, hallucinations and even psychosis.

While majority of the studies that have been conducted in the past were done on regular and heavy users of the drug, recent research findings have found that even minimal dosages of the drug ecstasy can result to the development of such mental, psychological and behavioral disorders (Rivas-Vasquez & Delgado 2002). Social Effects of the Use of Ecstasy As with any type of illicit substance, the use of the drug ecstasy has led to the rise of a number of concerns within the American society as a whole.

Apart from the apparent increase in the number of the younger generation using this illicit drug on a regular basis, which, in turn, results to them turning to other forms of drugs and eventually becoming a polydrug user, research studies on the effects of ecstasy has been found to be a major contributor to the rise of the number of individuals contracting HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The rise of serotonin levels in the body resulting from the ingestion of the drug ecstasy causes an individual to experience a rise in their libido and become easily aroused sexually.

The rave parties that become a venue for the distribution and consumption of the drug ecstasy among the younger generation becomes not only an all-night party where those that have ingested the drug to continuously dance to the tune of electronic music. Rave parties have also been described to be those where attendees lose any form of inhibitions towards other individuals in the parties. Attendees in these parties have an increased desire to connect with each other in the form of communal hugging and kissing.

The increase in the sexual drive of those that have consumed the drug causes these individuals to be more willing to engage in sexual acts with other individuals in these rave parties. This results in the increase in the instances for unprotected sexual intercourse to occur, hence, the higher the likelihood that an individual who has consumed the drug ecstasy to contract sexually transmitted diseases (Hoshi et al 2007; Kavanaugh & Anderson 2008; Martins, Mazzotti & Chilcoat 2006; Rivas-Vasquez & Delgado 2002; Sterk, Graham & Elifson 2003).

Another consequence that the use of ecstasy to the American society is the increase of crimes and acts of violence committed by offenders under the influence of the drug, or by those that have abstained from the use of drug. As stated earlier in this paper, the chemicals found in the drug ecstasy have been found to deplete the amount of serotonin hormones in the body of an individual who has consumed the drug.

This depletion of the serotonin levels in the body causes the individual to experience a heightened sensitivity to situations and incidences that they may perceive to be an act of aggression towards them primarily brought about the development of intense feelings of agitation and aggression on the part of the individual. This causes them to cognitively process these acts of aggression faster than those that do not pose a threat to them.

As a result, ecstasy users that have abstained or are under the influence of the drug are more susceptible in committing acts of violence, further contributing to the crime rate observed within the United States (Hoshi et al 2007; Martins, Mazzotti & Chilcoat 2006; Rivas-Vasquez & Delgado 2002). Conclusion The advent of the drug ecstasy has been initially perceived by the younger generation to be a means for them to be able to experience the happiness and thrill of rave parties at its fullest.

While research findings have supported the fact that ecstasy does increase feelings of love, happiness and being connected to their peers as a result to the increase of serotonin levels in the body, these research studies have also noted the various effects that the use of the drug has biologically, psychologically and socially. Although there has been extensive research conducted with regards to the use of ecstasy, there is still room for further research to be conducted.

Specifically, research to determine the methodologies and approaches that would be best used by agencies and institutions concerned with regards to the minimization, if not eradication, of the use of ecstasy in rave parties by the younger generation must be done in order to address the social effects of the use of ecstasy by the younger generation. Moreover, research studies must also be conducted in order to provide the proper treatment and therapy to individuals who have become users of the drug in order to regulate, if not cure, the biological and psychological effects the use of the drug has on its consumers.


Hoshi, R. et al. (2007). Ecstasy (MDMA) does not have long-term effects on aggressive interpretative bias: a study comparing current and ex-ecstasy users with polydrug and drug-naive controls. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 15(4), 351-58. Kavanaugh, P. R. & Anderson, T. L. (2008). Solidarity and drug use in the electronic dance music scene. The Sociological Quarterly, 49, 181-208. Martins, S. S. , Mazzotti, G. & Chilcoat, H. D. (2006). Recent-onset ecstasy use: association with deviant behaviors and psychiatric comorbidity.

Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 14(3), 275-86. Rivas-Vazquez, R. A. & Delgado, L. (2002). Clinical and toxic effects of MDMA (“Ecstasy”). Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 33(4), 422-25. Smith, J. (2007). The values and control of MDMA. Contemporary Justice Review, 10(3), 297-306. Sterk, C. , Graham, Z. & Elifson, K. (2003). Proceedings of American Sociological Association 2003 Meeting: Sex, Drugs, and Ecstasy: A qualitative comparison of two types of ecstasy users. Atlanta, GA: American Sociological Association.

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