Although the Drug Enforcement Administration first listed Ecstasy as a Schedule 1 drug in 1986, it gained popularity over time and ranks among the most popular street drugs today. Now, a team of University of Miami doctors warn that taking Ecstasy could lead to a weakening and rupture of the spinal cord artery that might kill you. “To our knowledge, this represents the 13th [posterior spinal artery or] PSA aneurysm reported in the literature, the first PSA aneurysm with an identified underlying cause and the first aneurysm of any spinal vessel linked to drug abuse,” wrote the authors in a paper appearing in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery.

Some Facts About 'Molly'

Ecstasy is chemically known as 3,4-methylene-dioxymethamphetamine (or MDMA). It is an amphetamine derivative and most often comes in tablet form. When swallowed, it leads to serotonin release and a surge of microvascular changes — a combined effect that feels to a user like a burst of mellow happiness, empathy, and energy. Yet, taking MDMA may also cause stroke, inflammation of the arteries in the brain, and internal brain bleeds. Molly is not a nice girl.

The circumstance inspiring the newly published study was a previously healthy teen who had taken Ecstasy. The morning after, he woke with a headache, neck pain, and muscle spasms. After a week, he added nausea to this list of symptoms, which had suddenly become worse, prompting him to go to the emergency room. After a week of unsuccessful tests, the hospital transferred him to a neurosurgical unit.

Here, investigation revealed an aneurysm on the left side of the spinal cord artery at the back of his neck. Surgeons successfully removed the aneurysm and the weakened portion of the artery. With no lasting nerve damage, the teen has made a complete recovery.

By 1995, the Foundation for a Drug Free World reports, less than 10 percent of available Ecstasy pills were pure MDMA, so today’s user is usually taking a mix of a variety of drugs and substances, some of which are toxic. On top of that, the drug is a common party drug, which generally means people use other drugs with it, including alcohol and marijuana. Too heavy a dose of MDMA, as described by the DEA, causes a sharp increase in body temperature, which could result in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure, and so, ultimately, death. As a schedule 1 drug, a category that includes heroin, MDMA has a high potential for abuse.

Source: Johnson J, Patel S, Saraf-Lavi E, Ali Aziz-Sultan M, Yavagal DR. Posterior spinal artery aneurysm rupture after ‘Ecstasy’ abuse. Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery. 2014.