Chewing gum and Chupa Chups have been linked with the ecstasy generation for many years. Footage from within nightclubs, dance parties or raves inevitably shows patrons chewing wildly or sucking on some sort of lollipop. So why do you chew when you’re on drugs like ecstasy and speed and are there any harms linked to this behaviour?

Ecstasy, like speed and crystal, are stimulants. These drugs speed up activity in the central nervous system causing adrenaline to surge through your body. This gives the user lots of energy and often enables them to dance long into the night. Stimulants also cause you to talk a lot (often about nothing!) and the excess adrenaline in your body makes you grind your teeth and give you an aching jaw. All of these drugs cause these effects but by far the worst is speed -“ and with the vast majority of our ecstasy tablets containing a great deal of amphetamine there is currently a great deal of chewing occurring. For many the worst problem is that these drugs also act as a low-level anaesthetic, causing users not to feel the damage they are causing to the inside of their mouth.

Early last year I was asked to present to a dental conference on the subject of party-drug users. Many of the dentists had requested some information on a new phenomenon that they were seeing amongst young people and the grinding away of their back molars. They were fascinated to hear of the patterns of party-drug use amongst young clubbers and the damage they believed was occurring to their teeth.

So are there any ways to reduce the harm you are causing to the inside of your mouth and teeth? First of all, the most obvious one is to reduce your drug intake. If that is not an option for you, try not to mix stimulants, and that includes caffeine energy drinks as these will add to the problem.

Chewing gum and lollipops are an effective way of reducing the amount of damage you can do by biting the inside of your mouth and tongue. However, you need to be aware that excessive chewing or sucking can also cause damage. How many people do you know that have bitten down on an almost non-existent piece of chewing gum only to find their tongue or lip in the way? I recall one incident at a medical tent I was working on when a young man ran in extremely distressed -“ he had taken an ecstasy tablet and had coughed up some blood. He was convinced he had internal bleeding. When he was checked over he had bitten the inside of his mouth and had not felt himself doing it due to the anaesthetic effect of the drug.

Possibly one of the safer ways of using up the excess adrenaline is by sucking on icy poles or ice cubes. These are not as abrasive as lollipops and rarely cause cuts.

Cuts inside the mouth or on the tongue are cause for concern and need to be considered when negotiating safer sex.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug, and no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blasé.

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