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Friday
Mar252011

Ecstasy-Related ER Visits Spike on Spring Break

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new player may be joining the list of spring break overdose dangers: the "club drug" ecstasy.

New government statistics show a 75 percent spike in ecstasy-related emergency room visits since 2004, prompting Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske to issue a public warning on the dangers of the popular party drug, especially with the spring break season approaching.

"The latest numbers show we need to work urgently and collaboratively to warn young people about the harms of drug use.  Now is the time when a lot of young adults and high school kids are going on spring break trips, and this is unfortunately when young people often experiment with substance abuse," said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesperson for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

And ecstasy-related substance abuse has been especially present in certain spring break hotspots in recent years.

"Miami Beach is like the playground of young adults in America.  We're seeing a lot more ER visits associated with ecstasy.  I'd say ecstasy is one of the top three drugs of choice for Miami Beach," said Dr. David Farcy, director of Mount Sinai Medical Center's Emergency Medicine Critical Division in Miami Beach.

Spring break is one of the peak times the hospital sees ecstasy-related ER visits, Farcy said, often by younger college students.  Other peaks happen during music festivals such as last December's Day Glo Party in Miami, when over a dozen patients came in suffering complications from ecstasy.

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a mood-elevating drug that produces a relaxed, euphoric state but can lead to dangerous, even deadly complications.

Though the U.S. saw a dip in overall youth drug use -- specifically including ecstasy -- at the beginning of the decade, results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show ecstasy climbing in prevalence since 2008.  According to Thursday data, an alarming 18 percent of ER visits associated with the drug were by adolescents under age 17.

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