- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Emergency room visits related to the use of Ecstasy and other so-called “club drugs” either remained stable or declined in 2002, a sharp reversal from previous years, a federal report shows.

Health officials are encouraged by the findings in the report, “Club Drugs: 2002 Update,” prepared for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), but they stress more work needs to be done.

“While the trend news is good, too many young people still put their lives in danger,” SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie said.

He added: “Club drugs are dangerous, addictive and illegal. Their use can result in serious health consequences, even death. It appears more and more young people are heeding this message and abandoning use of these destructive substances.”

The term “club drug” refers to a variety of drugs popular with teens and young adults at dance clubs and raves. Their popularity stems from a relatively low cost and the “intoxicating highs” they produce, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

In the late 1990s, club drugs were being used in more “mainstream” settings, NIDA said.

The SAMHSA report showed that emergency rooms visits associated with the use of club drugs more than doubled from 1994 to 1999.

Nevertheless, such visits have been rare, accounting for 1.2 percent of all emergency room visits related to drug abuse, the study found. In 2002, fewer than 1 percent of all emergency room visits in the United States were related to drug abuse, SAMHSA said.

Emergency room visits resulting from the use of Ecstasy, a drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline, rocketed from 250 in 1994 to 5,542 in 2001.

The good news, officials said, was that the figure was down to 4,026 in 2002.

“Statisticians say that decrease was not large enough to be statistically significant,” said Leah Young, SAMHSA spokeswoman, but it means no increases were measured between 2001 and 2002.

She stressed that SAMHSA’s report did not gauge use of club drugs, merely hospital visits related to their use.

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, which is short for methylenedioxymethamphetamine, produces both stimulant and psychedelic effects. It can cause serious psychological and physical damage. Chronic use causes long-term, possibly permanent damage, to sections of the brain essential for thought and memory.

Three other club drugs analyzed in terms of emergency room visits were depressants GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and ketamine, and the hallucinogen LSD.

In 2002, Ecstasy was the most common club drug associated with emergency room visits, followed by GHB and LSD. Estimates of visits associated with ketamine, a tranquilizer used primarily on animals, have remained low and statistically unchanged since 1998.

Federal officials said they were pleased to learn that emergency room visits associated with GHB fell by a third between 2000 and 2002. They dropped from 4,969 to 3,330 during the two-year period. As for LSD, such visits fell to a new low of 891, down from 2,821 in 2001.

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