WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- From 2005-11, ecstasy-related U.S. hospital emergency department visits rose 128 percent for those age 21 and younger, mental health officials said.
A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also found a substantial proportion of hospital emergency departments visits associated with ecstasy during the six-year study period also involved underage drinking.
In each year from 2005-11, an average of 33 percent of emergency department visits among those age 21 and younger involved ecstasy and involved alcohol. This unsafe combination causes a longer-lasting euphoria than ecstasy or alcohol use alone and may increase the risk for potential abuse, the report said.
"These findings raise concerns about the increase in popularity of this potentially harmful drug, especially in young people," Dr. Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, said in a statement.
"Ecstasy is a street drug that can include other substances that can render it even more potentially harmful. We need to increase awareness about this drug's dangers and take other measures to help prevent its use."
Ecstasy -- 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine -- has both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties, and produces feelings of increased energy and euphoria among users.
Abuse of ecstasy can produce a variety of undesirable health effects such as anxiety and confusion, which can last one week or longer after using the drug, Delany said.
Other serious health risks associated with the use of ecstasy include becoming dangerously overheated, high blood pressure, kidney failure and heart failure, Delany added.
Recently there have been several deaths associated with Molly, a variant of ecstasy, among young people taking it at concerts and raves, Delany said.