"Kids don't understand the dangers of ecstasy." - Kevin Glaser
SIKESTON -- Just as area law enforcement officials are cracking down on the meth problem, another drug is moving in the area to keep them busy -- ecstasy.
"It's here in Southeast Missouri. There's no doubt about it," Sgt. Kevin Glaser, coordinator of the Semo Drug Task Force, said.
Ecstasy, or MDMA, is a very potent drug that combines amphetamine and a mild hallucinogen. Though at first "e", as it's sometimes referred to, was a party drug in larger metropolitan areas, the drug has seeped its way into the rural Midwest towns of America, Luke Catton, president of Narconon Arrowhead, said in a recent statement.
One of the biggest problems with ecstasy is the youth don't perceive the substance to be dangerous, regardless of the damages it causes, Catton said in the statement. In 2001, 11.7 percent of 12th graders had used ecstasy, which is an increase from the 8 percent in 1999, according to the 26th annual Monitoring the Future study.
"Kids don't understand the dangers of ecstasy," Glaser agreed. "They think because it's a pill, it's not as bad as meth. But in fact, ecstasy is a form of meth. It's manufactured differently and has a different molecular structure, but for all practical purposes, it is meth."
Short term side effects of ecstasy include nausea, blurred vision, hallucinations, muscle cramping, chills and sweats, tremors and raised body temperatures.
"Meth is a stimulant and it charges up the central nervous system," Glaser said. "It increases respiration and heart rates, causing the body temperature to rise rapidly. An extreme rise in body temperature, about 106 or 107 degrees, is the leading cause of ecstasy fatalities."
Ecstasy is most often distributed at late-night parties called "raves," nightclubs and rock concerts. The closest organized rave occurred in Farmington, when an individual was shut down after putting on three different raves. That's the only big, organized rave closest to the area that's been busted, Glaser said.
"We have received word that a lot of kids are having small raves, but the problem is we can't really get to it," Glaser said. "Kids talk to kids so we don't really know enough information."
It's hard to get into teens' cliques, Glaser explained, because it's hard for an undercover agent to look like they're 14, 15 or 16 years old. The task force must rely on word on the street or other informants to get tips, he said.
Glaser said recently two area individuals were arrested for distribution of ecstasy, which was the first area seizure of the substance. Ecstasy is generally manufactured in European countries and smuggled into the United States.
One main reason the drug attracts teens and young adults is the marketing of the product, Glaser said. "The pill (which resembles the look of candy) is packaged with an emblem and put off as a 'hug drug,'" he said. "A hug drug is one that makes a person want to hug and touch or have physical contact with something."
While no ecstasy labs have been found in the area, Glaser said law enforcement officials know it's in Southeast Missouri, but it's hard to estimate how much of it is actually there.
"In my personal opinion," Glaser said, "I think Sept. 11 had a little affect on the drug supply due to tighter security at airlines. It's a fact that a lot of drugs were seized after Sept. 11. It scaled back the supply on drug distributors."
Parents should also be educated about ecstasy, Glaser insisted. The task force visits schools to talk to teens, but they also put on programs for parents. Parents need to watch and listen to their children, he advised.
Behavioral changes, like hyperactivity, and drug paraphernalia are things parents should look for to determine if their children are using drugs.
With ecstasy, parents need to look for pacifiers and glow sticks. Pacifiers are used to relieve muscle spasms or lock jaw from the ecstasy. Glow sticks are used as visual stimulators, he explained.
Parents know when their kids are acting strange, Glaser continued. Rather than treat it as a phase, they may want to look a little more into it, he advised.
"We need to get the message out to young people," Glaser said. "They need to know that ecstasy's not candy, and if they take it, they could have very devastating effects."