That's right. For many, spring is a time of celebration, marked with crazy excursions to remote destinations, all-night dancing to mind-bending synthetic pulses, and opportunities to meet other crazy, yet interesting, young people.

Besides being an efficient stress buster and a chance to hear what is at the forefront of modern music, a good rave can also be an eye-opening experience. That is, if you're willing to keep your eyes open. Many people use raves to help them get more in touch with their lives, to help them remember the big picture and that one of the key ingredients to health is happiness.

Unfortunately, many experienced rave-goers eventually come up with the reflexive equation that drugs equal happiness while at raves. Some statistical analyses claim that a moderately large percentage of ravers do not take illegal substances (anywhere from 20 to 40 percent), but this is probably quite far from the truth. If you were at a rave and high as funk or nervous about something you were carrying in your shoe, you probably wouldn't tell some official-sounding university researcher what you were or weren't taking either.

While some claim rave drugs like "E" and LSD are not addictive, both can have immensely powerful effects on the body and brain. Some people use these pharmacological enhancements to boost the total rave experience, but the changes such psychoactive drugs have on your brain, no matter how permanent or temporary, are very real.

So here's a good tip. If you're going to do drugs – and no one can stop you – try and find out about the effects of the pill before you buy it.

Don't take anything for granted unless you are 100 percent confident. Feel free to ask the dealer or somebody else who has recently taken the drug what it feels like, and if they shy away from the question then you should probably move on.

And remember, everybody's body is different, so just because something is fantastic for your friend doesn't mean it will necessarily do jack to you. Or vice versa – you might witness the unraveling of The Matrix because of a pill your friend dismissed as weak-sauce. Know what your body is capable of.

The most popular illicit drugs to be found at your average rave are of two types: stimulants (ecstasy, speed and crystal meth), which are more popular for trance, house and other upbeat dance genres; and psychedelics (LSD, mushrooms and DXM), more commonly located in drum 'n' bass and techno floors.

As many of you already know, an "E" tablet is rarely just ecstasy. Chemically known as MDMA, this ingredient is responsible for effects like euphoria, heightened feelings of empathy, self-awareness, increased energy and decreased social inhibition.

Most run-of-the-mill rave tablets contain only some MDMA – the rest of the pill being a possible mixture of amphetamines, opioids, or whatever substitutes are cheap and locally available. Sometimes they contain no MDMA at all and are just cheap mixtures of amphetamines, Ritalin, cough suppressant or who knows what. Rumors frequently circulate of heroin or mescaline detected in rave "E" pills; however, this is highly unlikely since these drugs cost more than MDMA to manufacture.

If you are concerned about the quality of the recreational drugs you are going to ingest, it would make sense to stick with the upscale, commercialized downtown raves, which might cost $35 or more but are at least a bit more clean and a bit less scary. At these raves you will probably feel more sanitary. At raves out in the Valley, or closer to the desert, you are more likely to end up with non-MDMA ingredients in your $20 pill.

To make matters more complicated, eating a tablet of pure ecstasy, some claim, is sometimes actually worse for you than eating one with some filler that is less neurotoxic than MDMA. Most opioids probably cause less mean brain damage than MDMA, and the cold medication DXM (dextromethorphan, a common East Coast "E" pill filler) is much less toxic.

A well-established fact most people continue to ignore is that chronic use of MDMA can indeed burn neurobiological holes in your brain. Recently a report was published of a male in his early 20s who had claimed to have done well over 200 "hits" of ecstasy since age 15. Due to MDMA's neurodegenerative capabilities, he became severely stricken with insomnia, depression, social isolation and had experienced so much jaw clenching (a common side effect of stimulants) that neurons projecting to his jawbone became non-functional.

Instead of injecting rats with amphetamines to mimic psychosis (a practice common in the experimental development of antipsychotic medications), most behavioral scientists now use MDMA to mimic psychosis in drug trials. They believe that MDMA-administered rats behaviorally mimic the psychosis seen in schizophrenia with more accuracy than with any other agent of the classical stimulant smorgasbord. If the damage normally caused by MDMA in a rat brain can be reversed by an experimental medication, it is considered to be successful – at least in rats.

It is true, however, that they give these lab rats enough "E" to turn them into Richard Simmons, usually way more than the human equivalent of a normal dose or two. Nobody would expect you to spell your own name if you did as much "E" as these rats do. But the fact remains that ecstasy is indeed capable of causing neuronal cell degeneration, or brain damage if you prefer.

To avoid closing on a depressing note, here are some health tips for you who have already made up your mind about your next "experience:"

1) Drink plenty of water. I know you've heard it before, and you might not feel thirsty, but do it! "E" uses up the moisture in your body quicker than you would think – and you can never drink too much water.

2) Stay cool. Try and break from the heat of the middle of the dance floor every once and a while, as there is a direct correlation between body temperature and the neurodegenerative effects of ecstasy.

3.) Don't push it too hard. Even though you might feel as physically dominant as The Rock, take a moment to rest every once and a while, otherwise you might regret it the next day. Remember, the next day always comes! Even if you feel on top of the world, you eventually will have to come back down, and recreational drugs tend to follow Newton's law that for every high there is an equal and opposite low. Also, serotonin-replenishing chemicals such as 5-HTP and some antidepressants do help quell ecstasy's sometimes devastating hangover.

So with these tidbits I send you back out into the real world, hopefully a bit more confident or at least a bit more informed. Let the raves begin!

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