I love going to raves and taking ecstasy. Do you think that ecstasy is more harmful to persons with CF than to the general population? Have the dangers of this drug been overestimated?ADIDAS

Before answering your question, I would like to explain what this drug is made of. Ecstasy is the popular name for MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymetamphetamine). It is derived from amphetamine, which was synthesized in 1914 and used as an appetite suppressant. It was recycled in the 1970s and 1980s for use in psychotherapy: some therapists used it because it reduced the patients’ inhibitions and helped them talk more openly about their problems. Ecstasy became very popular in the 1980s, when it was adopted in English-speaking countries as a recreational drug at raves. It was then taken off the market. Today, you can buy ecstasy on the black market in pill or capsule form.

The effect of ecstasy on the brain lies somewhere between that of amphetamines (stimulant) and mescaline (hallucinogenic). Ecstasy users also behave in a sensuous manner because the drug makes them feel close to others. In small doses, the side effects are fairly harmless: reduced appetite, dry mouth, palpitations, tightness in the jaw, insomnia, hot flushes and sweating. Once the effect wears off, withdrawal symptoms may include fatigue and varying degrees of depression. With higher doses, however, the consequences can be more serious, including high fever, a rise or drop in blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, bleeding in the brain or the stomach, convulsions and acute liver or kidney failure, all of which can be potentially fatal. Psychological effects range from anxiety combined with feelings of panic, to psychosis or serious depression. All these complications can occur in a normal individual. A person with cystic fibrosis who has major lung and digestive problems would be more at risk of developing serious complications, in my view.

Seven Health Risks*

1. Ecstasy causes dehydration, which is often aggravated by an overheated environment and major physical exertion.

2. Ecstasy taken with other illegal drugs (cocaine, LSD, speed, ketamine, GHB) and alcohol can increase the toxicity of the substances ingested.

3. People who are already on medication, including Aspirin, certain antidepressants, and some drugs used in the treatment of HIV are at risk of having a dangerous drug interaction.

4. People who suffer from asthma, circulatory and heart problems, epilepsy, kidney problems, liver problems, diabetes, chronic fatigue or psychological problems are particularly vulnerable and should never take

5. Regular ecstasy users run the same risks as cocaine or amphetamine users: confusion, aggressiveness, mood swings, insomnia, severe anxiety, paranoia, weight loss and weakness.

6. For some people, ecstasy use may cause or uncover long-lasting psychiatric disorders.

7. There is no physical addiction, but some chronic users could develop a psychological dependence.

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