A brief outline of the long and short term risks of ecstasy use.

Essay by TullyUniversity, Bachelor'sB, April 2002

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As with all drugs, the best way to avoid problems with ecstasy is simply to not use it. In the past the Australian Drug Foundation has worked from this perspective with campaign slogans like 'Just say no!' However, these messages have not been effective, as people who choose to take drugs will do so no matter what the risk. A new approach has been adopted that focuses on harm minimisation. Harm minimisation attempts to lower the risk of serious injury (both mental and physical) and death by informing users of the risks involved in their drug use and the precautions they should take.

For some individuals the risks involved in taking ecstasy are far greater than they are for the general population. People on weight loss medication, anti-depressants, or on medication for blood pressure problems are in the high risk group. People with a family history of any psychiatric condition, kidney disease, heart disorders, cardiovascular disease, or any neurological or nervous system impairment are also categorised as high risk.

The main short-term risks involved with ecstasy usage are over heating and dehydration, and are due to two main factors. Firstly, ecstasy affects the body's ability to keep its temperature at normal levels. This has a lot to do with the restricted blood flow to the skin where the blood is usually cooled off. The second factor is to do with the social side of ecstasy. Ecstasy is often taken as a dance drug, where users may be in hot and overcrowded places dancing for hours without stopping. As one could imagine, these two factors combine for sometimes disastrous effects. Mixing ecstasy with other drugs, such as speed or alcohol, also increases the risk of dehydration.

The risks of dehydration and overheating can be reduced if users rest for 15 minutes...