EL PASO, Texas – Electro-beats fill the arena, green laser lights project out to the dancing multitude and somewhere in that crowd many will be consuming ecstasy, including 19 year-old Randy.
“The first time I ever took ecstasy was when I went to a rave a few months ago and my friends gave me this really small pill. I took it and everything changed,” Randy said. “I just felt happy and everything sounded and looked even better than before.”
El Paso has seen an almost 2 percent increase of ecstasy seizures from 2008 to November 2009 according to Diana Apodaca, Drug Enforcement Administration special agent.
“At first we thought it had to do with the violence in Mexico, but then we realized it had nothing to do with it,” Apodaca said. “Informants advised us that it was because ecstasy is popular at the moment.” Seizures started to go down recently because traffickers are having a hard time getting through the military to the border, but Apodaca said usage has increased.
Ecstasy is more prevalent during raves, where electronic music is played along with a laser light show, and users are usually between 18 and 24 year olds according to the DEA website.
Ashley, a high school senior, has had many encounters with the accessible drug. “I went to a rave at a club and many times people would come up to me asking me if I rolled,” Ashley said. “I didn’t know what that meant, until my friend told me that they were asking me if I took ecstasy.”
Ashley said that she would always know where to get the party drug and believes it is easy to get.
“All I have to do is ask around and I know that someone will eventually lead me to someone who sells it,” she said.
Since the drug is more accessible near the border, the DEA takes several precautions in order to lower ecstasy use and trafficking. Apodaca said. One method is speaking to elementary school students on the dangers of illicit drugs.
“We let them know what the consequences are,” Apodaca said. “A lot of parents don’t want to bring it up, because they think their kids are too young, but when we go out to middle schools sometimes it is too late.”
The penalty for distributing ecstasy can be up to 20 years in prison. The DEA is taking this matter seriously and going after the pushers. First time offenders can face up to two years if they are caught with about 120 units of pills.
Teenagers say they go for the drug because they don’t see anything wrong with taking pills that make them feel good about themselves. “I don’t see anything wrong with taking a pill that makes me feel happy,” Randy said. “A lot of people take pills to feel better and no one is making a big deal about it.”
Ashley believes that ecstasy is more popular with her peers because it’s easier to take a pill than to smoke marijuana or snort cocaine. “It’s easier to carry and I think it’s more acceptable because everyone grows up taking pills,” she said.
Every pill is different and some are stronger than others said Apodaca. Some of the common popular pills are called the Ares because users say it gives them the right high.
The double stack pills are stronger and give a double doze at the same time, while others have cartoons or game characters on them, like Donkey Kong. When using an illegal substance overdosing is always a danger and ecstasy is no exception.
“It’s easy for a user to overdose because they keep searching for a bigger high and they consume more pills,” said Apodaca.
Randy said he doesn’t think ecstasy is as dangerous a drug as many make it out to be.
“I know a lot of people who use it at raves and nothing has ever happened to them,” said Andrew. “I don’t think it’s a big deal like a lot of people say it is.”
But others believe that ecstasy is getting out of control.
“It’s becoming more of a problem, I think, because I can’t go anywhere with out hearing about it or seeing people pop ecstasy,” said Ashley.