Counselor Rubinstein

Q&A with Garry Rubinstein

Licensed Alcohol Drug Counselor

on the University of Nevada, Reno campus since 1979.

Q: Does Ecstasy seem to be a bigger or smaller problem in the Reno community?

A: Depends who I talk to. Drugs don’t go away, it’s like whack-the-mole. Ecstasy is out there, I don’t know if it’s as popular as it once was. I still have plenty of folks talk to me about it. E seems, in my opinion, that it may have peaked in popularity a few years ago. [In Reno,] Meth is down, Cocaine is up. One thing about street drugs is that you never know what you’re getting. It’s still readily available in our community.


Q: Would you say Ecstasy is addictive? If so, what about it?

A: Anything that leads to pleasure can be a problem for somebody. A quick, non-medical definition: people don’t become addicted to things they don’t like. Anything that can result in pleasure can have the problem of addiction. Addiction is a continuation of a problem where the person knows it’s not okay and does it anyway. Can Ecstasy, can marijuana, sugar, caffeine be addictive? Yes.


Q: Are Ecstasy addicts “common” or does it take seriously excessive use to become addicted?

A: People with addictions are on different levels with different consequences. If someone continues to do something they know is wrong, it may be addiction. I get people who get busted and don’t believe theyre addicted and vice versa. If you drink energy drinks or coffee you could be an addict. Who decides? It’s all personal.


Q: What are the most-common side effects?

A: MDMA is an Amphetamine drug, so after you take it there is increased stimulation. Someone might experience clenching or grinding of teeth, muscle tightnessThere is a change in the brain, they’re excited, ready to dance and communicate.

Q: Does Ecstasy have other uses?

A: It’s not always a sex drug. MDMA allows people to express themselves, it was once used in therapy for couples. From 1914-1988 you could have E. Psychotherapists used it to enhance relationships, to explore feelings, to externalize their moods. It’s a medicine, and every medicine is a drug. 


Q: Are any of these reversible?

A: After heavy use, we are learning how far drug effects can be. Some of the brain effects can be lifelong and permanent. It does seem like if some folks abuse a stimulant, there is a brain change that can take months or years before a person gets back to normal. Some people can handle Ecstasy, some people struggle. With any central nervous system drugs, you are risking overstimulation – people who take drugs of any kind may make a change they have to live with.Too much stimulation may develop psychosis, the state of being psychotic: seeing, hearing, acting as if in a different world. I don’t know how often people are taking E. Most students I talk to will take Ecstasy MAYBE once or twice a month – it could lead to personality, emotional or world-view changes – when your brain adjusts or adapts to something it may never forget. A lot of the E out there isn’t just Ecstasy, there are other things in it – so I don’t really know where the problem lies, [with MDMA or the other drugs mixed in.] Most people I talk to take more than one drug at a time so I can’t be sure what did what.


Q: How do you treat someone suffering from post-Ecstasy side effects?

A: I make use of community resources, in- and out-patient. I give people a safe place to talk. Yes, I work with students from 17-70. E is popular; maybe more popular in high school or junior high school  than at the college level. People do things for different reasons. I work within my scope of practice – I’m not a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist. My job as a counselor is to help people realize what they’re doing and make changes. I provide services for alcohol and other drug concerns, not everyone is addicted – there are different levels of concern. My service is for the person and is confidential – I do have people who come in, ask questions and talk openly. Every person is important and I have learned many different ways to treat because people treat their needs in different ways. Since I am a counselor we use conversation and other psychological approaches. People drink and drug for different reasons. I use everything that I’ve learned over the last 40 years to help people get to a better place. I work for each person and find out from them what’s best for them, then we talk about options. Some folks see me once in a while, some see me every day.


Q: How often do you see people because of Ecstasy?

A: E comes up. Most students come in on their own because they have concerns. People come in when they have a problem. When I hear about concerts or raves I get people who come in with negative experiences. After spring break I get a lot of alcohol issues. Before and after exams I get students who took stimulants to stay up. Every drug has been talked about, we have everything on campus. 


Q: What does it mean that Ecstasy is a Schedule 1 narcotic?

A: To be a Schedule 1 drug means that the drug has no medical purpose and that they can’t research it – nicotine is not on any of the schedules and it kills more people than all drugs combined. The problem is that drugs work but they work by changing the brain, which is not always good. To get high, you need to get your drug out of its norm. Every drug has medical value, every drug has potential to be abused.


Q: Please tell me why you do or don’t believe Ecstasy to be an underestimated problem in our community.

A: My guess is youre going to hear more about heroin, people have been smoking it a lot more lately. Meth is still a problem, but we have addressed it and “survey says” meth use is down, cocaine use is up. We need to talk more about prescription abuse. A lot of students I talk to have taken E, maybe not as much as they used to, but I still get a lot of students talking to me about trying it. Is it more or less popular? I don’t know. E is in our community but to give an honest answer I don’t know what the most popular drug is at the moment. I also worry people don’t care, they just want to get high.

 I just want people to keep asking questions. If you ask 10 different doctors or scientists a question you may get 11 answers. I want people to ask themselves why they are doing what they’re doing. Alcohol/drug taking is a powerful relationship, once it hits your brain you may have a good time. Drugs can completely change someone’s life, be it death, HIV contraction or other problems. I hope people make good choices. Speaking from the counseling field for myself, I’m not going to judge or lecture, I’m going to offer support. The patient chooses what we talk about and it remains confidential. 


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