How Ecstasy Causes Major Health Problems

Ecstasy pills.

For years, possibly decades, ecstasy was incorrectly considered to be one of the “safer” drugs to abuse. This has never been further from the truth. New research has indicated that ecstasy has a direct link to the onset of a historically rare, but now far less rare, spinal degenerative disease. At this point, there is enough co-occurrence of spinal disease in young people and also past use of ecstasy amongst those young people that there is a clear and present link between the two.

Ecstasy is no longer the “low-risk” drug that many thought it to be. Not only does ecstasy create risk in the here and now, potentially causing overdose and even death, but ecstasy use has long-term implications, presenting very real, very serious risk in physical health conditions that could end up being permanent and even fatal.

Ecstasy and Posterior Spinal Artery Aneurysm

Spinal artery aneurysm
Aorta (Ao) with large abdominal aneurysm.

A posterior spinal artery aneurysm is a rare spinal issue wherein the artery wall near the spine weakens, bulges, and possibly ruptures. If a rupture occurs, serious damage to one’s health will ensure. Cases of posterior spinal artery aneurysm have been extremely rare across the U.S., but all have been very serious and life-threatening.

According to Dr. Dileep Yavagal, professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the University of Miami, the first case of a posterior spinal artery aneurysm being linked with drug use emerged in 2014. Dr. Yavagal reported that ecstasy had long been known to cause stroke, to increase inflammation of the arteries in the brain, and to even be the inception point of brain bleeding. But this was the first time ecstasy was seen to cause posterior spinal artery aneurysm.

Dr. Yavagal explained in a July 2014 issue of The Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery that ecstasy causes a spike in blood pressure to the extent of risking rupture of already weakened arterial abnormalities. Essentially, ecstasy takes adverse health conditions that are already a risk to the user and makes them far worse.

Spinal artery aneurysm, shot 2
Selective angiogram of the left artery showing a fusiform aneurysm.

At first, it was believed that ecstasy only furthered the symptoms of people who already had posterior spinal artery aneurysm. But in recent news, a teen boy of good health and no arterial issues was admitted to the ER for posterior spinal artery aneurysm following ecstasy use of several days prior.

While surgeons were able to address the posterior spinal artery aneurysm, and while the teen was able to make a full recovery, extensive analysis of the teen’s health and physical condition was unable to find any trace of arterial weakness prior to taking ecstasy. This is the first of what will likely be much evidence that points to posterior spinal artery aneurysm being solely caused by ecstasy abuse.

What This Means for the Rest of Us

The above information serves to paint ecstasy in an entirely different light. It puts an entirely new level of concerns and worries on the subject of ecstasy, taking a drug that was once seen as a relatively “low-risk” drug (if there can be such a thing) and putting it into perspective as a high-risk drug. We can no longer classify ecstasy in the same risk category as marijuana, LSD, mushrooms, and other hallucinogenic, mind-altering substances. Ecstasy is more dangerous, more severe, and more life-threatening than what we once thought.

New research like the above is necessary to learn more about the drugs that torment millions of Americans, drugs that we felt all along were dangerous, but which we now know are dangerous. We need to make this information known to as many people as possible, because only with broad awareness and knowledge of drug risk can we reduce the drug problem that our country is afflicted with.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.