Club drug ecstasy showing up in the military

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The club drug ecstasy is becoming more of a problem in the military, an official said.

''In talking with law enforcement in the military, be it Air Force or Army military, they're seeing probably as much of it or more than out here in the civilian population,'' said Alaska State Trooper Sgt. J.R. Roberts, head of the local branch of the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit.

Two Air Force airmen were court-martialed at the beginning of the month after testing positive for the drug.

Eielson Air Force Base Airman Leon Carr and Clear Air Station Airman David Burkhart were sentenced and discharged from the military after urinalysis tests came back positive for the illegal substance.

Eielson had another court-martial in November and Fort Wainwright has had two soldiers test positive for using ecstasy since October 2000.

Carr -- a 20-year-old aircraft fuel systems apprentice originally from Fort Smith, Ala. -- tested positive April 2, received a bad conduct discharge and a sentence to serve six months in confinement on Aug. 1.

Burkhart -- a 19-year-old security police officer from Citrus Heights, Calif. -- tested positive April 3, received a bad conduct discharge and was sentenced to nine months of confinement Aug. 2-3.

Both pleaded guilty at their court-martials and were sentenced immediately afterward.

The recent court-martials were made public because of the recent Air Force-wide crackdown on ecstasy use.

Maj. Phil Smith, Eielson's deputy staff judge advocate, said 130 airmen worldwide have been found guilty of ecstasy use. Most of them were punished similar to Carr and Burkhart, who are now serving their sentences at Edwards Air Force base in California.

Ecstasy is used primarily among people ages 14-25.

''It's a drug that's typically associated with sexual-enhancing-type of drugs. It lessens people's inhibitions, makes them touchy-feely,'' Roberts said. ''That's the lure of it ... It makes a person more relaxed and feel more able to socially interact with society and people.''

Ecstasy users can go days without eating or sleeping, leading to dehydration and exhaustion. Other symptoms include chills, sweats, blurred vision, muscle cramping and involuntary teeth clamping.

Regular users can develop permanent brain damage.

To try to curb ecstasy use, Congress has enacted harsher penalties on the manufacture and sale of the drug.

As of May 1, a violator trafficking just 800 tablets of ecstasy could be sentenced to five years in prison.

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