Illegal Drug Ecstasy

By George Grow

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Last month, American agents seized more than two-million tablets of the illegal drug known as ecstasy in a raid in the state of California. Federal officials say it was the biggest seizure of the drug in the United States.

The tablets were seized at Los Angeles International Airport after they arrived on an airplane from France. Officials say the tablets had a market value of about forty-million dollars.

Experts say the number of Americans using ecstasy has risen sharply in recent years. Federal agents have seized about eight-million tablets in the past ten months. They say the drug is produced in European laboratories, mainly in The Netherlands.

Ecstasy is not a new drug. A company in Germany first developed the drug - also known as M-D-M-A - in Nineteen-Twelve. American Drug Enforcement Administration officials say a small number of American doctors gave the drug to patients with emotional problems in the late Nineteen-Seventies. However, the drug was declared illegal in the United States in Nineteen-Eighty-Five. Federal officials say the drug has no accepted medical use. Illegal use of the drug became common about ten years ago.

Ecstasy has gained popularity among young people who attend night clubs and all-night dance parties known as raves. The drug causes a chemical reaction in the brain. Users of the drug say it makes them feel happy and calm. It also increases good feelings for other people. D-E-A officials say Ecstasy is often taken in combination with other drugs.

Ecstasy is said to suppress the need to eat, drink or sleep. As a result, users of the drug may not get enough to drink or become extremely tired.

D-E-A officials say ecstasy may cause serious side effects. These include increases in body temperature, muscle tension, shaking and weakened eyesight. The drug also may cause increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

American officials say scientists are just beginning to study the effects of long-term ecstasy use. In one study, scientists found that repeated use of the drug caused brain damage. Another study found that people who used Ecstasy had memory problems that lasted for weeks after they stopped taking the drug. Both studies suggest that the amount of damage is directly linked to how much of the drug is used.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English