How MDMA Affects the Health of Teens

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also commonly known as “ecstasy” or “molly”, is a manufactured drug that is able to create a “high” similar to that provided by amphetamines. It also has shared psychedelic effects of hallucinogens such as mescaline and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). The effects of MDMA can last between 3 and 6 hours, which is why it is so popular with ravers and nightclub-goers alike.

The term “molly” typically refers to the powder or crystal form of MDMA. It is usually sold in capsules. In recent times, this form is believed to contain a mixture of, or replaced with synthetic cathinones (a chemical found in bath salts), caffeine, dextromethorphan (which is found in certain cough syrups), amphetamines, phencyclidine (also known as PCP), or cocaine. Here’s why MDMA can be detrimental to the health of teens.

What Happens to a Teen’s Brain

Brain MDMA

When a teen swallows an MDMA pill, it produces effects which directly impact the activity of the brain’s three neurotransmitters, also called chemical messengers. The brain releases the chemicals serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Serotonin has a fundamental influence over a teenager’s mood, sexual activity, sleep, and pain threshold. When MDMA is consumed, the serotonin levels in their body will increase, causing a variety of effects, which includes a heightened sense of alertness, altered sense of time, and other changes in perception such as a more intense sense of touch. Not only that, MDMA can result in a heightened sense of emotional closeness, sexual arousal, and trust. These are attributed to serotonin’s ability to trigger the release of the 'love hormone' oxytocin and antidiuretic hormone vasopressin.

At the same time, MDMA directly increases the levels of dopamine in the body, resulting in teens experiencing a heightened sense of pleasure. Dopamine is responsible for controlling movements, apart from influencing emotions, memory, and focus. It is no wonder that the increased pleasure experienced is directly linked to a continued craving for the drug by teens. MDMA also boosts the release of norepinephrine, causing an increase in an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure, which could be dangerous for teens who are unaware that they are suffering from a heart condition or problems with blood circulation.

Increased activity of the brain’s chemical messengers will cause a string of negative effects at any given time during use, which includes feeling anxious or agitated, becoming sweaty, having chills, or feeling faint or dizzy. Even if a teen does not experience any of the negative effects during use, they can still potentially experience other debilitating effects, weeks later. These include confusion, depression, trouble sleeping, increased cravings for the drug, and anxiety. These symptoms come as a result of reduced supply of serotonin to the brain after a surge of such a chemical when taking MDMA.

Short-Term Effects on a Teens’s Body

Effect Teen

MDMA could sometimes fail to break down in the body, which could directly affect an individual’s metabolism. In turn, this may cause harmful levels of the drug build-up in the body, especially if it is taken repeatedly by a teen over a short period of time. This drug build-up in the bloodstream can lead to short-term and long-term effects in the body.

Some of the short-term effects a teen may experience include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, tension in muscles, grinding of teeth, and lowered inhibition. Teens are being more prone to doing things and making decisions that they would not do normally. Apart from these, teens may also experience nausea, bouts of vomiting, blurred vision, dizziness, and chills accompanied by cold sweat. Also, a rise in body temperature results in some severe risks such as conditions or diseases that affect the heart, liver or kidneys.

Long-Term Effects on a Teens’s Body

Long Term Effect

It is still unclear if MDMA can cause long-term effects to the brain, or if these effects are reversible when a teen stops using the drug completely. What studies have ascertained, however, is that heavy MDMA users experience confusion, depression, and problems with memory and attention over a prolonged period.

Ultimately, a teen may end up being completely isolated from other people as well as being unable to do simple daily tasks as a result of motor damage in the brain. This also bears similar traits to the motor-damage caused by Parkinson’s disease. And if that doesn’t give a teen enough reason to avoid taking MDMA, the risk of possible death just might. Yes, an individual can die from MDMA use, especially when taken in an active or outdoor setting such as a dance party, rave or live concert because it can cause difficulties in regulating body temperature, and could sometimes lead to a sharp rise in body temperature, also known as hyperthermia, which can result in organ damage or even death. 

Preventing the use of MDMA by teens has to begin within the confines of their own homes. Parents should be well informed about the dangers posed by MDMA. They should also actively educate teenagers about the dangers of drug use. It is also essential for a family unit to grow healthy and happy by spending quality time together. Failing to do so could result in teens looking for other avenues to attain happiness or pleasure, inadvertently causing severe bodily implications, or worse, death.

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