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Erika Christensen, NIDA and In the Mix expose the dark side of ecstasy in a new PBS special

E C S T A S Y

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (New York, NY)

No longer confined to clubs, ecstasy and other drugs like K, acid, and GHB have found their way into schools and homes, and are used by growing numbers of young teens across the U.S. According to the 2000 Monitoring the Future Survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1.3 million of the nation's students in grades 8 through 12 have tried ecstasy at least once, and 450,000 are currently using it. The just released Office of National Drug Control Policy biannual report reveals that availability of ecstasy has increased dramatically, sold at high schools, on the street and in malls. The teens who speak out frankly in the new In the Mix special support the findings. James, age 18, "They're still at clubs, but they're just everywhere else, at school, at your house." Ashley, age 16, adds "I did E for the first time when I was twelve because my friend's older brother was doing it, and I wanted to be cool and fit in."

E C S T A S Y, hosted by 18 year-old Erika Christensen who plays the teen addict in Traffic, takes a hard look at the realities of what many teens think is just "harmless fun." This new In the Mix special shows the short and long term effects of ecstasy, ketamine and GHB; explores the devastating personal and social impact experienced by teens now in rehab; and defines the legal penalties for possessing even small amounts of these drugs which are in the same class as heroin and cocaine. The special will air the week of April 14th on PBS stations nationwide. (Check local listings or http://www.inthemix.org)

The word among teens today is that club drugs are not "real " drugs, that they are non-addictive and that using them can't get you into trouble. But according to Dr. Alan Leshner, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, "We do know that an increasing number of people are coming into treatment centers saying, 'I can't get control over my E use,' Now, clinically, that's the definition of addiction." Megan, age 17, admits "I just thought I was going to try it...see what everyone's raving about. And, I fell in love with it."

Dr. Leshner goes on to clearly describe how even moderate use lowers serotonin levels in the brain, which leads to depression. Michelle, 16, describes "I'd get depressed and I'd get high to cover that up, and it was just like a vicious cycle." He also shows how other physical effects can result in seizures and stroke. We then ride along in an ambulance with trained teen EMTs from Post 53 in Connecticut who alert teens why they must call 911 when a friend is having a serious reaction and what to do while they are waiting.

We also ride along with an undercover cop in Miami who has witnessed an increasing number of overdoses and points out that "The manufacturers are going to great lengths to make tablets with logos that appeal to the American youth...and it's effective." The teens agree that it's like any advertising "If someone showed me a bunch of pills...I would take the one that everyone talks about the most."

Viewers see an actual bust of an ecstasy dealer as Westchester D.A. Jeanine Pirro explains what happens after a teen is arrested and the legal penalties for drug possession. Teens describe their experiences in prison and rehab, plus how they are getting their lives back on track and their hopes for the future.

According to Sue Castle, Executive Producer, "In developing the program, we talked with a diversity of teens who stated that ecstasy use is not only widespread, but that it has become the gateway drug to acid, speed and even heroin. They just aren't aware of the potential dangers, and it's so important to get the word out." Justin, age 18, agrees "You never hear (about ecstasy), they don't campaign against ecstasy like they do about crack, heroine, coke, marijuana."

E C S T A S Y was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In addition to NIDA's http://www.clubdrugs.gov/ website, the special will have a companion website on http://www.inthemix.org/ with video clips, full interviews, resources, viewer experiences and more.

In the Mix is the award-winning weekly PBS series for teens that addresses critical issues and provides useful information in a cutting edge format. The series is a production of Castle Works, Inc. and was created by WNYC Radio.

For more information about this special, contact David Beilinson or Sue Castle at In the Mix.
Phone: (212) 684-3940 Email: suecastle@inthemix.org; dbeilinson@inthemix.org


SHORT DESCRIPTION:

E C S T A S Y

Hosted by Erika Christensen, the teen addict in the movie Traffic, this special raises awareness about club drugs by showing their dangers, defining the penalties and exposing misconceptions about them.

No longer just used in clubs, ecstasy and other drugs like ketamine, LSD, GHB and crystal meth have found their way into schools and homes as their use grows among young teenagers who view them as "harmless fun." In this special, teens in rehab talk candidly about their common experiences with ecstasy, alone and as a gateway to other drugs, their addiction and the devastating effects on their lives.

We also ride along with an undercover cop on the streets of Miami and see a young ecstasy dealer get busted. Westchester D.A. Jeanine Pirro explains what happens when a teen is arrested and the penalties for drug possession, as teens graphically describe their experiences in prison. Plus we interview Dr. Alan Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse about the latest research on the short and long terms effects of ecstasy. We ride along in an ambulance with trained teen EMTs who warn about the need to call 911 when a friend has overdosed.

Additional quotes:

Ralph - 17 : Through ecstasy I messed up, messed up on a lot of stuff. YK, I used to be on a high school football team, I stopped going to practice. "You're addicted to the feeling, you want to get that mental level, so you keep doing more and more."

John - 15 : The way you think on ecstasy is that you're safe from anything. Nothing's going to happen to me, even if I have sex with this person, and you're not going to be cautious at all.

Michelle - 16 : I know people right now, only sixteen years old, and they shake from it...they don't stop shaking.

Justin - 18 : Some people will buy the pure MDMA, the pure ecstasy, and they'll cut it up, and they'll get a pill press, and they'll mix up what they want to mix up, with like speed, anything...then to catch attention, people will put little stamps on it.

Additional Stats:

Among 8th graders, use of Ecstasy increased to 3.1% in 2000 from 1.7% in 1999. Among 10th graders, use rose to 5.4% from4.4%. And among 12th graders use rose to 8.2% from 5.6%*
* (Source: 2000 Monitoring the Future Survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse)

U.S. Customs seized 9.3 million tabs of ecstasy in 2000 up from 3.5 million in 1999 and 750,000 in 1998 *(Source: U.S. Customs Service)

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