Ecstasy is a long-used term for a synthetic drug of abuse called MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), which has a combined hallucinogenic and stimulating effect. Some people also refer to certain forms of MDMA by another slang term, Molly. The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan track the use of MDMA among U.S. teenagers each year as part of an ongoing survey project called Monitoring the Future. The latest figures from this survey indicate that, while overall rates of use are down from a high point reached in the early 2000’s, teen usage rates for MDMA did not change much in 2013.
Ecstasy And Molly
MDMA belongs to a group of substances known as “club drugs.” While the drugs included in this group have some similar chemical properties, they’re labeled together primarily because people commonly use them in similar settings, namely clubs, dance parties or other youth-oriented gathering spots. People who use MDMA typically experience drug effects such as an intensified sense of touch, an increased awareness of music or other sounds, feelings of warmth or benevolence and the same type of energy boost associated with the use amphetamines or other stimulants. Serious short- and long-term side effects of the drug include a dangerous (and potentially lethal) reduction in the ability to regulate one’s body temperature, a spike in anxiety or other unpleasant emotional states, difficulty forming or recalling memories and significant increases in both blood pressure and average heart rate.
Ecstasy is the slang term typically associated with MDMA; in many cases, substances sold under this name contain a substantial number of additives or impurities, including such things as amphetamine, cocaine or the cough syrup ingredient dextromethorphan. In recent years, drug enforcement authorities and public health officials have begun reporting the spread of Molly, another form of MDMA that is supposedly produced under much more controlled conditions and therefore contains fewer additives and impurities than Ecstasy. However, practically speaking, no one can say if any given batch of Molly (produced in illegal and unmonitored circumstances, just like Ecstasy) differs from the typical batch of Ecstasy in any important way.
Past Trends In Teen MDMA Use
The findings reported by Monitoring the Future come from a sampling of roughly 45,000 8th, 10th and 12th graders attending school at various locations across the U.S. With support provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, University of Michigan researchers use the surveys completed by these students to create a larger picture of teen substance use in America. According to Monitoring the Future’s results, 2.5 percent of all 8th, 10th and 12th graders used/abused MDMA one or more times in 2012. Twelfth graders had the highest rate of use at 3.8 percent. Tenth graders had the second highest rate of use at 3.0 percent, while 8th graders had the lowest rate of use among the three grades (1.1 percent). Teenagers in all three grades used MDMA less often in 2012 than they did in 2011. The greatest reduction in use (1.6 percent) occurred among both 12th and 10th graders. The rate of use among 8th graders fell by 0.6 percent.
Current Teen MDMA Trends
Between 2012 and 2013, the number of U.S. 12th graders using MDMA at least once per year rose from 3.8 percent to 4.0 percent. Among 10th graders, the usage rate rose from 3.0 percent to 3.6 percent; 8th graders did not use MDMA any more or less often in 2013. Statistically speaking, the University of Michigan researchers did not view the changing rates of use among 12th and 10th graders as significant. In addition to looking at the numbers of adolescents who use MDMA, Monitoring the Future asks the teenage survey participants how dangerous they consider the drug to be, as well as if they disapprove of using the drug. The number of 8th, 10th and 12th graders viewing MDMA intake as risky or dangerous did not change substantially from 2012 to 2013. In addition, the number of people in these three grades disapproving of MDMA intake did not change to a meaningful degree.
The 2013 version of Monitoring the Future did not include separate questions for Ecstasy and Molly; instead, it equated all MDMA use with Ecstasy use. The University of Michigan researchers note that no one really knows how many U.S. teenagers consider Ecstasy intake and Molly intake to be either the same or different; lack of knowledge on this point may have had some minor impact on the figures compiled in 2013. In 2014, the survey will add questions specifically intended to differentiate Ecstasy use from Molly use.