Daniel Oerum, 17, of San Clarita Valley, California, wanted prom night to be special. So, he reached into his tuxedo pocket and took out pills stamped with images of Tweety Bird and Buddha. Ecstasy (also called E, X, XTC, Adam, hug, love drug, and beans) looked harmless enough. But Daniel found out the hard way how dangerous it can be.
"My heart was racing so fast. I thought I was having a heart attack," Daniel said. A friend helped him into the prom because his legs wouldn't stop trembling. The dance floor was located on a Hollywood movie set. Daniel tingled from head to toe. "Then I hit a peak," he said. "I felt like a movie star."
Later at a friend's house, Daniel crashed into gloom
and confusion. He swallowed two more "E" pills. Taking multiple doses within a relatively short time multiplies the toxic risks of any drug. With ecstasy, "stacking," or doubling the dose, carries especially high risk. The level of ecstasy builds and the user's body can't keep up with the amount of drug in his or her blood. That's what happened to Daniel.
"I lay down and couldn't lift my head," he said. "My legs were rocking back and forth."
The following weekend, Daniel dropped "E" at a rave
where some 200 kids danced on a dirt clearing. Before long Daniel
was selling ecstasy. "I'd walk into raves and yell 'E'
and people would crowd around. I felt a sense of power."
With the profits, he bought more ecstasy which he took often,
always with other kids. "I did drugs so I didn't have to
feel alone," he said.
When Daniel's father worked nights, friends flocked to his house. Adorned with glow-in-the-dark shirts and beads, they danced to trance music and chewed pacifiers to keep their teeth from grinding.
Soon Daniel was dropping up to five "E" pills a day.
Desperate to feed his habit, he started selling cocaine and
methamphetamine as well as ecstasy. "I was skinny. My skin
was the color of paper. My teeth were rotting out," Daniel
said. "I would steal anything I could get my hands on.
I stole valuables from my dad. I didn't see anything wrong with
the way I was acting."
Once, a friend's mother wanted to buy drugs from Daniel. When he delivered the bag of speed to the house, Daniel watched his friend's face crumple in sadness. "I felt really bad. I saw lives being destroyed because of what I was doing," he said.
On New Year's Eve, Daniel's girlfriend called him a "drug addict" and a "lowlife." He jumped out of her car. "Staring at the city hotels and gas stations, I thought 'I'm going to be living alone in the streets' and that scared the daylights out of me," Daniel recalled.
The next morning, he went to his father and said, "Dad, I need help."
NEW YEAR/NEW BEGINNING
A resident of Phoenix House, a drug-treatment center in Lake
View Terrace, California, Daniel has been clean for six months.
He's gained weight, and he cares about himself again. But he
worries about ecstasy's effects. "I feel like I've suffered
he said. "Sometimes I get stuck in conversations, because I can't find a word." Other times he walks the unit and stops in horror, forgetting where he's going.
Daniel is trying to understand his past and piece his life back together. "I got into drugs because I felt like no one liked me. Then nobody wanted to be around me because of
the drugs, and I ended up completely alone," he said. "I feel like a new person now."
On how he felt when he was on ecstasy:
"I didn't care about anyone or anything. I just cared about doing my own thing, selling and partying. I'd take out anyone who got in my way."
"Ecstasy is a roller coaster. It brings you up so high that you feel like you're on top of the world. When you come down you feel like a complete outsider, like you don't belong anywhere."
On how he saw ecstasy affect others:
"I'd see people get real bad with E. They'd sell the shirt off their backs. This guy once offered me his dirt bike for 40 pills. People tried to give me watches and stuff that I knew they stole from their families. Another guy wanted to give me a bunch of women's jewelry and a 40-speed bike for a couple pills of E."
On what he'd tell other kids:
"I'd like to join an N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous) panel
and talk to kids who are using. I'd tell them, `Get out while
you can. It starts out as all fun, games and parties but it
leads to real nasty things. You become your own worst enemy.'
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