While tourists from all over the world are mesmerized by the scenery and landscape of Kerala, which has earned the privilege of it being called ‘God’s Own Country’, local denizens need a different kind of ‘ecstasy’ to get mesmerized. The ‘ecstasy’ that Keralites seek is available only in the ‘high’ that drug MDMA can give. Huge seizures of MDMA, nicknamed ‘Ecstasy’ is occurring every day from some part of Kerala by different enforcement agencies. The young of Kerala are craving MDMA like never before.
3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception.
MDMA was upon introduction an instant hit in the party circuit in the West. It became an integral feature of every rave party and in nightclubs, and endearingly called ‘Ecstasy’ and ‘Molly’. Among teenagers, it is also known as the ‘Love Drug’. Presently it is a drug of choice among the youth throughout the world. In Kerala, its soaring popularity among young boys and girls is raising alarm among sociologists, educationists and health professionals.
Ecstasy is a stimulant drug that can cause hallucinations. It is known as a designer drug because it was created for the purpose of making users feel high. Users get a euphoric feeling which can keep them going for days without rest. Youngsters abusing the drug can keep on partying for long stretches of time, hence another popular nickname for MDMA is ‘club drug’. Teenagers around the world have developed unique ways of consuming ecstasy tablets. Ecstasy abusers usually take it by "stacking" (taking three or more tablets at once) or by "piggy-backing" (taking a series of tablets over a short period of time), or by "candy flipping," which is the co-abuse of ecstasy and LSD. Teens see it as a way to increase their partying fun, stay awake, and uplift their mood. Because it does all of these things, teens want to take it again and again. What really happens when ‘Ecstasy” is consumed?
Once an ‘ecstasy’ capsule is swallowed, it takes about 15 minutes for the drug to enter the bloodstream and reach the brain. It then increases the activity of three neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers of brain cells): serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
•Serotonin—plays a role in controlling mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and feelings of pain. The extra serotonin that is released by MDMA causes mood-lifting effects in users. People feel very alert, or “hyper,” or “charged” at first. Serotonin also triggers the release of hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which causes feelings of love, sexual arousal, and trust.
•Dopamine helps generate movement, motivation, emotions, and pleasurable sensations. The extra dopamine causes a surge of feelings of joy and increased energy. This makes people dance vigorously, indulge in uninhibited sex and generally behave with gay abandon.
•Norepinephrine increases heart rate and blood pressure and gives the feeling of racy excitement.
But it is not an unending story of excitement and euphoria. The negative consequences can make the user experience confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and anxiety. Continuous usage can cause harmful levels of the drug to build up in the body. High levels of the drug in the bloodstream can increase the risk of seizures and affect the heart’s ability to beat normally.
Research findings link ecstasy use to long-term damage to those parts of the brain critical to thought and memory, similar effects to cocaine and meth use. It is believed that the drug causes damage to the neurons that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons.
People who have a sex addiction problem frequently resort to taking ‘ecstasy’ tablets to satisfy their sexual cravings. Once the drug is consumed it heightens the perceptions of several sensations, including touch, energy and sexual arousal. Low impulse control and craving for sex can make the ‘ecstasy’ consumer go berserk. When groups of teenagers use it in rave parties or in secluded environments, it can lead to uninhibited group sex. The dimly lit environment, dance music at ear-splitting volume, entices most people to be on drugs in rave parties, where drinks are laced, food is laced, alcohol is laced- the clubs arrange all these, and the stage is set for a night long orgy. This is the reason why the organizers charge a fortune for entry, and, often, for bottles of water. Consumption of water, soft drinks and alcohol is very high in rave parties. Many revellers get as high as a kite, their jaws swinging back and forth like pendulums, a side-effect of taking ‘ecstasy’.
Clubbers who take the “love drug” experience a brain surge of ‘oxytocin’ – the hormone that helps bond couples, as well as mothers to their babies. Youngsters simply crave for that extra dose of artificial love, which ‘ecstasy’ guarantees. The simple truth is that ‘ecstasy’ is needed desperately by youngsters to survive in the hypersexualized society that is fast taking shape across the globe.
Alexander Shulgin is the medical chemist and psychopharmacologist, who synthesised ‘ecstasy’, and is known as the godfather of ‘ecstasy’.
The incredible bonding that can be achieved by consuming ‘ecstasy’, has prompted many researchers and scientists to consider prescribing ‘ecstasy’ to heal broken relationships, and on the verge of collapsing marriages. This is according to Brian Earp, researcher and co-author of “Love Drugs: The Chemical Future of Relationships.” Hence many scientists believe that ‘ecstasy’ or MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions, is an effective panacea for mending broken relationships. MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is getting a lot of acceptability.
For many people, taking ‘ecstasy’ is a method of escaping reality; of seeing, feeling, and thinking differently; and of exploring the world they know from an altered perspective. The prospect of such an experience is especially enticing to young people, and ‘ecstasy’ use is often closely associated with clubs, concerts, parties, and other venues frequented by adolescents and young adults.
Young user’s feelings of sociability and closeness with others gets enhanced by using ‘ecstasy’. Youngsters especially enjoy being touched after consuming ecstasy, as the tactile experience is magnified. Experiments have also discovered that participants experience altered facial expression recognition while under ‘ecstasy’ influence. They are slow to perceive angry expressions, yet respond quickly to happy ones, indicating the overall social nature of the drug. ‘Ecstasy’ users speak of those close to them in a deep, positive and empathetic way. ‘Ecstasy’ fuels an increased desire for social interaction, which is one of the attractions for young users in most social situations.
Another common trend noticed is combining ‘ecstasy’ and ‘Viagra’. “Sextasy” is the name used to refer to this combination. A mixture of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (commonly known as ‘E’ or ‘ecstasy’) and a drug sildenafil citrate (Viagra), used for erectile dysfunction is combined and taken in capsule form or maybe ‘snorted’ nasally as a powder. It is also known as ‘trail mix’ and ‘cocktail pill’. Using the cocktail is sometimes referred to as ‘hammer heading’. Viagra is an anti-impotency drug that works by increasing the temporal length of an erection.
Sextasy is known for its stimulating effect (ecstasy) and its ability to enhance sexual ability (Viagra). But, once the peak effects of ‘ecstasy’ begin to dissipate, users will often “double-stack” or “re-up” and take more ‘ecstasy’ to increase and experience the peak euphoric effects of the drug. Many users do this to avoid what is often called “The Crash,” resulting in feelings of anxiety, depression, fatigue, exhaustion, irritability, agitation, and impulsivity. In some individuals, users become aggressive and struggle with insomnia, decrease in appetite, memory loss and difficulty concentrating. Repeated use of ‘ecstasy’ interferes with the normal brain chemistry, resulting in severe mood swings.
Long-term use of ‘ecstasy’ may lead to compulsive behaviours and neglect of important responsibilities such as work, school, commitments, and relationships. The soaring popularity of ‘ecstasy’ in Kerala is fraught with immense social problems affecting future generations. The peddling of ‘ecstasy’ is no longer the preserve of uneducated touts, it is being actively canvassed for by well-educated youth from well off families. The involvement of young girls is significant in propagating ‘ecstasy’. While the ease of making quick money could be one of the motivations, the sex angle should be borne in mind, while investigating ‘ecstasy’ seizures, in different parts of Kerala.
(Dr. G. Shreekumar Menon IRS (RTD) Ph.D. (Narcotics) is Former Director General, National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics, & Multi-Disciplinary School of Economic Intelligence India, Fellow, James Martin Centre for Non- Proliferation Studies, USA. Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA). Writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org