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DoD Targets Ecstasy

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2001 – "Ecstasy" is the fastest growing abused drug in the United States, and the military is taking steps to ensure it doesn't endanger service members.

Ecstasy -- chemical name 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine -- is also called "X," "XTC," "Clarity," "Essence" "Adam," "Lover's Speed" and "Hug Drug" on the street. A drug with no known medical use, its abuse has exploded among young people, especially those between 18 and 21. Federal authorities seized 49,000 Ecstasy pills in 1997 -- but more than 900,000 just two years later.

DoD officials said 1,070 cases of Ecstasy abuse in fiscal 2000 accounted for 5.6 percent of all positives in the DoD urinalysis program. This puts Ecstasy behind marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine as the most abused drugs in the military.

"This is a problem in the civilian world," said Deborah Rosenblum, principal director for counternarcotics. "Anything that is as popular, in vogue -- where there are misconceptions about it -- in the civilian world, we certainly take note of it from a recruiting and readiness perspective."

Abuses in fiscal 2001 have slowed, officials said. Rosenblum said contributing factors are education efforts by the services and members' growing awareness that the urine test can detect Ecstasy use.

DoD plans changes in test protocols -- weekend testing, for example, she noted. The services will also work together to see what messages resonate with service members and what tactics seem to work, she said.

Ecstasy is dangerous. Findings of a primate study announced at a mid-July research conference in Bethesda, Md., indicated monkeys given the human equivalent of four daily doses of Ecstasy showed brain damage and behavioral changes two weeks and 18 months after the "binge." The effects noted are consistent with those observed in humans -- memory loss and acute depression, among others.

Overall, the DoD counterdrug effort has been successful. In 1980, surveys showed 28 percent of service members said they had abused an illegal drug in the last month. The 1998 survey put that number at 2.7 percent. The department currently tests for marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines, which include Ecstasy. It also tests for opiates, PCP, barbiturates and LSD. The department will test for other drugs as the need arises, officials said.


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