Experts not so Ecstatic about new data on drugs-related E.R. visits

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) emergency department visits related to “Ecstasy” use increased nearly 75% from 2004 -2008.

A new national study indicates that the number of hospital emergency room visits involving the illicit drug Ecstasy increased from 10,220 in 2004 to 17,865 in 2008.  70% of these Ecstasy-related visits involved patients aged 18 to 29, but more alarmingly 17.9% involved adolescents aged 12 to 17.

Ecstasy is the colloquial term for MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) –often abbreviated “E” or “X”.  It is an entactogenic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class of drugs

Leah Betts, before her death from Ecstasy. Her parents released the photograph in the hope of deterring other young people from taking drugs.

Ecstasy use can produce psychedelic and stimulant side effects such as anxiety attacks, tachycardia, hypertension and hyperthermia. The variety and severity of adverse reactions associated with Ecstasy use can increase when the drug is used in combination with other substances of abuse.  Most Ecstasy-related deaths occur as a result of the drug users’ failure to recognize their body is abnormally hot.

In the current study almost 80% of emergency department visits involving Ecstasy use also involve the use of at least one or more other substances of abuse.  Half had used Ecstasy with three or more other substances.

The resurgence of Ecstasy use is cause for alarm that demands immediate attention and action,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “The aggressive prevention efforts being put into place by SAMHSA will help reduce use in states and communities, resulting in less costly emergency department visits related to drug use.”

SRxA’s Word on Health and its Behavioral Health Advisors are deeply concerned by this trend and applaud SAMHSA on its preventative educational efforts.