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Ecstasy Abuse Rising

The synthetic drug Ecstasy, also known by its chemical abbreviation MDMA, has emerged as a major concern for U.S. law enforcement. This is due both to the health risks Ecstasy poses to those who frequently use it, and because of the drug's increasing ties to criminal smuggling groups.

Over the last several years, the U.S. Customs Service has seized Ecstasy in record numbers from travelers, cargo, and mail packages entering America. In 1999, Customs seized 3.5 million Ecstasy tablets. That figure jumped to 9.3 million tablets in 2000. This year to date, Customs has seized more than 4 million Ecstasy tablets.

In the past, Ecstasy was most commonly associated with the big city club scene and popular all-night dance parties known as "raves." This is no longer the case. Ecstasy use has spread to bars, college campuses, and high schools and junior high schools across the country. What began primarily as an urban threat has now become a national crisis.

At the same time, violent crime related to the illegal Ecstasy trade is on the rise. While the level of violence associated with Ecstasy trafficking has not yet reached the same proportions as the cocaine or heroin trade, it will only grow. Demand for Ecstasy is surging in the United States and the worst elements of the criminal underworld are aggressively competing for the profits.

In response to these alarming trends, Customs has taken several important measures. First, we established an Ecstasy Task Force in Washington, D.C. to lead our investigative and counter-smuggling efforts. The Ecstasy Task Force is responsible for gathering daily intelligence on Ecstasy smuggling and coordinating Customs' response with other law enforcement agencies. Customs has also trained 106 drug-detecting dogs to alert to Ecstasy and stationed them airports and mail and cargo facilities across the country.

While these measures will help us to combat the rising tide of Ecstasy, we must again appeal to the public, especially parents, to help us in this fight. Don't be fooled by what some describe as the minimal side effects of the drug. Ecstasy has been classified as a Schedule I drug, placing it in the same category as drugs with no medicinal purpose such as heroin and LSD. In addition, a growing body of medical research continues to point to the risks of irreversible brain damage among Ecstasy users.

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