The Agony Of
Designer Drug Popular Among Queens Youth
By NICK BUGLIONE
XTC, E, X, Adam, rollThese are just a
few of the street names for the drug ecstasy, a synthetic narcotic that in recent years
has skyrocketed in popularity among teenagers and young adults throughout the nation.
|Ecstasy is becoming the drug of choice for a growing sector of
Queens young adults. Photo courtesy of www.crowid.com
While its use was once limited to the
urban club scene, ecstasy has since seeped into the suburbs, becoming the drug of choice
for a growing sector of Queens party-going population.
As members of the medical community
scramble to gather information on the substances effects, and law enforcement
officials step up their campaign to curb the drugs distribution, ecstasy continues
to become an integral part of the recreational lives of countless Queens youths.
According to Jim Foran, a
representative from the SPARK program who lectures Queens high school students on the
dangers of drugs, in recent years ecstasy has become significantly more popular among the
"We have seen an increase of it in the
past 10 years," said Foran, noting that when he visits high schools, students
consistently bring up ecstasy during the discussion. "Ecstasy is one of the more
popular ones that come up."
Anthony, a 22-year-old ecstasy user and
Queens resident who asked not to be identified further, confirms that currently the drug
is so readily available its almost impossible for teens not to try it at least once.
"I can get ecstasy about 1,000 times
quicker than a bag of pot," said Anthony, who first experimented with the drug
several years ago. "I tried it, just like we all did, to see what it was like."
Calling it the "best drug"
hes ever done, Anthony admits that it didnt take long for him to become a
"Its an addiction that sneaks up
on you," he said, acknowledging that while ecstasy is not viewed to be physically
addicting, it does create a significant psychological dependency. "Youll do it
on a Friday night and if you dont the next night, even though youll get
completely wasted [on something else], youll feel like something is missing."
Stating that the notion that ecstasy is
simply a "club drug" is completely inaccurate, Anthony confirmed that many
regular users dont even go to clubs.
"It doesnt matter where you are,
you can do it anytime," said Steven, a relatively new ecstasy user and 21-year-old
local who also asked to remain anonymous.
Once ardently opposed to the drug, Steven
said hes now done it about 10 times.
"I was kind of skeptical," he
said. "Even though I had those negative feelings, there was a part of me that wanted
to try it."
"If everybodys having a good
time on this thing I figured Id try it," he said. "The first time I did
it, it felt great. I went from totally not wanting to touch it to wanting to do it
whenever I could."
Perhaps whats most alarming is that
users openly identified ecstasy as a physically damaging substance, yet continue to take
it nonetheless. Anthony further admitted that while under the influence of ecstasy,
hes been led to use other drugs.
"K and E together is out of
control," he said, refering to the drug ketamine, an anesthesia often taken along
Like so many others, the two users said
they planned on continuing taking the drug, yet realize theyll have to quit at some
"Ecstasy, although very good, can be
very dangerous cause you dont know whats in there," said Steven.
"You dont know what youre getting yourself into."
Scientifically referred to
as MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), ecstasy is a designer drug that shares properties
with both amphetamines and hallucinogens.
First synthesized by the German company
Merck Pharmaceutical in 1912 and patented in the U.S. in 1914, ecstasy was initially used
as an appetite suppressant for those seeking to lose weight. Yet in light of the discovery
of the drugs adverse effects, it was never marketed and its patent eventually
During the late 1970s and early 1980s,
ecstasy reemerged within the medical community as an adjunct to psychotherapy, with
therapists praising the drug for its usefulness in enhancing social interaction,
introspection and communication.
Nevertheless, in 1985 the drug was made
illegal, and classified by the federal government as a schedule 1 druga category
reserved for substances deemed physically dangerous and believed to hold no medicinal
Despite its prohibition, ecstasy is used as
a recreational drug, especially at clubs and ravesall night dance parties at which
substance abuse is the norm primarily because of the often-energetic side effects
accompanied with the narcotic.
Usually ingested in pill form
although it can be purchased as a powder peak affects of the drug usually take
place in the first 60 to 90 minutes, with the entire experience usually lasting several
The physical side-effects of the
intoxication include increased body temperature, dehydration, sweating, teeth grinding,
loss of appetite, nausea and sleeplessness.
Dubbed the "hug drug" because of
the empathy it produces, users report feelings of intense euphoria, emotional openness and
friendliness giving many a false sense of the drugs benign nature.
However medical officials are reporting
that ecstasy is anything but safe. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse,
ecstasy can raise body temperature to fatal heights and has been linked in the deaths of a
number of the nations youths.
Studies conducted by the John Hopkins
Medical Institute have found that ecstasy use can lower a persons production of
serotonin, a chemical instrumental in regulating aggression and mood, by 10 to 30
percentleading doctors to speculate that long term use can lead to severe emotional
and psychological disturbances. Some scientists maintain that lasting damage can occur
from simply one dose.
Research also indicates the drugs
additional ability to destroy certain brain cells that utilize the neurotransmitter
dopamine, which might possibly lead to Parkinsons disease, a neurological disorder
that effects motor functions.
Doctors warn of ecstasys suspect
contents, perhaps more so than any other street drug, noting that Valium, heroin, caffeine
and other substances are often mixed in without the user even knowing it.
"You havent the faintest idea of
what youre putting in your body," said Dr. Richard Blum, a specialist in
clinical pharmacology at St. Francis Hospital.
"Repeated use of any compound
thats not monitored can lead to a serious detrimental affect," said Blum.
"It can cause serious long-term consequences; hardening of the arteries, strokes,
Proponents of the drug argue that research
against ecstasy is based largely on conjecture.
It Coming From/Whats Being Done To Stop It?
Recognizing the growing
popularity of ecstasy, Queens law enforcement officials have stepped up their efforts to
stifle the drugs distribution.
Just last February police, collaborating
with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, took down a nationwide multi-million
dollar ecstasy drug ring that was operating out of Forest Hills.
"Ecstasy trafficking has become an
explosive problem," said Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration,
Donnie Marshall. "No longer confined to our major cities, it is expanding into our
rural communities as well."
Following an extensive investigation
beginning in April, 1999 investigators learned that Oshri Amar, an Israeli, had been
engaging in hundreds of wholesale ecstasy transactions with dealers from Florida,
Philadelphia, Rhode Island, California, Ohio, Massachusetts and the New York metropolitan
area. Amir had been conducting the business out of his Forest Hills apartment.
In the end, Amir and several of his
associates and clientele were arrested, and over 300,000 ecstasy pills and $7.5 million
As a result of this investigation, law
officials learned ecstasy was primarily being manufactured and exported from the
Netherlands and Belgium. Alarmingly, officials also learned just how lucrative the
business of selling the drug truly is.
"According to the charges, the
defendants made enormous profits trafficking the drug, paying between $1 to $2 per tablet
to underground Dutch and Belgian laboratories and then charging their wholesalers $6 to $8
per pill," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The drugs are ultimately sold
for an even larger profit at the club level, where ecstasy prices soar to $20 and $30.
"We are committed to continuing operations such as
these until every pipeline is shut down," said New York City Police Commissioner
Ecstasy is agony, Queens Narcotics cops
told the Tribune. We asked the local narcs about the drug, where it is prevalent in
Queens, how much users pay to obtain it and where it is most prevalent in the borough.
The notorious "club drug" arrives
in pill form at JFK Airport by the thousands, local narcs said. "And by UPS to
"There is no set time schedule for its
arrival," they said. It comes in at any given time, and where it used to head to
neighborhoods in eastern Queens (predominantly white neighborhoods), it is now surfacing
in large quantities in largely black and minority neighborhoods, the cops said.
Ecstasy, which is manufactured with the
by-products of other combination drugs, is now showing up in the 103 and 113 precincts
in neighborhoods like south Jamaica and Springfield Gardens, the Narcotics cops
"Neighborhoods where crack, cocaine
and heroin have ruled since the late 1980s," they said.