About Caucus







March 21, 2001

America at Risk: The Ecstasy Threat

The Honorable Senator Charles Grassley
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

You can hardly read a newspaper or magazine these days without reading about the use and abuse of the drug Ecstasy. The use of this drug is growing faster than any other in the nation. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, (NIDA), reports that the number of 12th graders that have used Ecstasy in their lifetime increased from 5.8% in 1998 to 8 % in 1999. These are just numbers, and hard to visualize. But we will hear this morning what these numbers mean in real lives. What’s happening is unacceptable. Something must be done about this.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Customs Service, and law enforcement agencies around the nation are making seizures of Ecstasy in record amounts. Recently, the Prince William County Police in Virginia arrested a man and seized his laboratory, which was capable of producing large amounts of Ecstasy, right here in our own backyard.

What disturbs me most, however, is that young people are dying from Ecstasy. At our Drug Caucus hearing last year on this same subject, we heard from a young lady named Amy Ross, whose 19 year old sister, Melissa, died the first time she used Ecstasy. Friends gave her the pill. Earlier this year, another young woman named Brittney Chambers died after her friends gave her a green four-leaf clover-shaped Ecstasy pill for her 16th birthday. Because one of the many side effects of this drug is increased body temperatures and severe dehydration, authorities report Brittney drank 3 gallons of water in 45 minutes. Think about that - 3 GALLONS in 45 MINUTES!! This enormous amount of water triggered swelling in her brain, and she lapsed into a coma, never to awake again. I can only think what these so-called "friends" did to these young women was tantamount to giving them a loaded pistol and inviting them to play Russian Roulette.

What most users fail to recognize is Ecstasy use has many severe negative side effects. NIDA reports that psychological difficulties, including confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety, and paranoia occur not only during, but sometimes weeks after taking Ecstasy. Physical symptoms include increases in heart rate, body heat, blood pressure, muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, and chills or sweating.

As Administrator Marshall and Acting Commissioner Winwood will testify, the trend for Ecstasy use seems to indicate that it will only get worse, and it will spread. Made more likely by some in the media and elsewhere that seem to favor legalization.

Last year, the DEA confiscated more than 3 million doses of Ecstasy. This is pretty staggering when compared to the 79,600 pills the DEA seized in all of 1997. Also last year, the Customs Service seized 9.3 million Ecstasy pills entering the United States. When compared to their 1997 seizures of 400,000 pills, this is an enormous increase. These are incredible numbers, and shows the great efforts put forth not only by these two agencies, but by the smugglers who are putting this poison into our communities. I look forward to hearing of your other endeavors to combat the traffickers of this deadly drug. But the seizures indicate the scale of the problem because we are not stopping the drug from reaching our schools and backyards.

Along with my colleagues, I am committed to combating this drug which targets our youth. Last year, Senators Graham, Biden, and several of my colleagues in I introducing anti- Ecstasy legislation that was signed into law. This bill strengthens our hand in responding to the spread of Ecstasy. It provides for increased penalties for Ecstasy trafficking and possession, and authorizes money for research. And it helps raise awareness by calling for more media campaign time to educate the public on the dangers of Ecstasy. Judge Murphy, I am especially interested in your testimony today as your agency, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, is responsible for making changes to the penalties for Ecstasy traffickers.

I want to thank all of the panel members for appearing here and we look forward to hearing your testimony on this important subject. I hope that today’s hearing strengthens our resolve to do something about the ever increasing use of Ecstasy use, and to punish those who peddle it to our young people.