|Army Launching Campaign Against Ecstasy|
Army Launching Campaign Against Ecstasy
By Joe Burlas, Army News Service.
Washington D.C. -- (ANS) August 7, 2001 -- Army leaders plan to combat the increasing soldier use of the "club drug" Ecstasy with education, hard cold facts and aggressive random drug testing, said Dr. George Chagalis, director of the Army Center for Substance Abuse Programs.
The center will release a computer slide briefing, complete with "Techno" music, later this month for commanders to train their units on the potential dangers of Ecstasy.
US Army photo
"This drug directly affects the combat readiness of the Army -- that's why we are serious about getting the word out on it," Chagalis said. "Young people today have a feeling of invincibility. They say, 'It won't happen to me,' but the fact is that it does happen to young people."
One myth the briefing should dispel is that Ecstasy clears the system and cannot be detected after 24 hours of use. The fact is it can be detected up to 72 hours after use and its side effects of depression, mood swings and erratic behavior last even longer, said Edwin Fisher, chief of ACSAP's prevention and training branch.
While there is still a lot of research to be done on Ecstasy, scientists do know that it affects the brain by drawing out large amounts of the naturally occurring chemical serotonin. This chemical causes feelings of euphoria and a sense of well-being. However, Ecstasy can cause short-term or even permanent depletion of the brain's serotonin reservoir.
"Without serotonin, you no longer have joy in your life," Chagalis said. "Can you imagine a life without a natural sense of joy in it? You would have to medicated for the rest of your life just for a sense of normalcy."
And like most drugs, you can become addicted to Ecstasy or die of an overdose -- even from a single use, Fisher said.
While the potential adverse effects of Ecstasy are bad enough, Fisher said, throw in the fact most Ecstasy sold on the street is not the real thing, but a mix of other amphetamines and drugs. The sterility of the lab that made the drug is an unknown, he said, and, if Ecstasy is present, you don't know its potency nor what drug or substance it has been cut with.
One common Ecstasy filler is a drug known as PMA. It directly impacts the hormones that regulate body temperature. In a cool environment, users can suffer hypothermia, an abnormal cooling of the body core temperature. In closed, crowded environments like those found at most Rave parties, the effects can be a body temperature of 104 degrees or more and severe dehydration.
"This drug's effect on the body is like a car engine overheating and blowing the radiator," Fisher said. "There are cases where people have died using Ecstasy laced with PMA and their bodies still had a temperature of 107 degrees hours later."
ACSAP statistics showed 39 soldiers came up hot for Ecstasy out of 631,918 urinalysis tests conducted in 1998. Positive tests jumped to 153 out of 627,888 in 1999 and 471 out of 679,640 in 2000. Through the end of June, with one more quarter to go in the fiscal year, more than 620 troops have already been identified through urinalysis tests as having used Ecstasy.
All urinalysis samples sent to Department of Defense labs are tested for THC, cocaine, amphetamines and at least one other drug. The additional tests may be for barbiturates, opiates, PCP or LSD. Ecstasy is an amphetamine.
"We still have a lot to learn about Ecstasy, but brain scans have shown that it alters the basic structure of the brain," Fisher said. "Young people are pretty resilient. Some might be able to take a few times without feeling any visible lasting effects -- but it will catch up with them."
- For more information on Ecstasy and other club drugs, visit the ACSAP website