The secret life of ECSTASY
By The Green Party – Monday, July 29, 2002
Copyright: The Green Party
You may have seen a new anti-ecstasy billboard sporting myriad ecstasy pills and the caption ‘which onE is the killer?’ Well it may have something to do with the country you’re in, not the pill itself.
Scare tactics are no good if clubs can lose their licence for allowing official pill testing and harm reduction is seen as ‘giving in to the drugs war’
In the UK there have been around 80 deaths attributed to Ecstasy. In the same period, there were between 20-30 deaths in the Netherlands – but even the Dutch aren’t sure if that many deaths were due to Ecstasy itself.
As the Trimbos Institute (Netherlands Institute of Addiction) say, ‘the exact number of deaths related to the use of amphetamines and ecstasy is unclear. In the Cause of Death statistics of the CBS these substances rarely occur as underlying causes of death. Over the past 10 years no more than 1 to 3 acute deaths per year were involved.’ In plain English, they are saying that so few people have problems with Ecstasy that they’re not sure if it’s a killer in itself.
So why do far fewer people die in the Netherlands from Ecstasy use? It may be due to the Dutch policy of harm reduction for all drugs. In the case of Ecstasy, it means ‘ecstacy’ pill testing in clubs as well as public warning from their health ministry when potentially lethal ‘ecstasy’ pills are discovered in circulation.
So does Ecstasy have the potential to kill? Ask the scientists and they will tell you that the LD50 (lethal dose that killed 50% of a group of rats/mice) of MDMA is 97mg/kg, ie. a person weighing 170kg would have to take around 150 Ecstasy pills or more before death occurred. However this is taken from the animal world and if you read the small print, you will see that the doses were administered IP, that is, injected into the membrane that holds the major organs together.
In the human world, there is anecdotal evidence that large amounts of Ecstasy can be consumed orally with no apparent long term effects. There are several instances of people consuming hundreds of pills and living to tell the tale.
So why is Ecstasy thought of as being such a big killer in the UK? There are three possible reasons, which relate to poor provision of resources for drug takers in clubs.
First of all, many clubs still do not have proper ventilation, running cold water and ‘chill out’ areas to prevent heatstroke, a major cause of death for Ecstasy users in the UK.
Secondly, the ‘Barry Legg Act’ effectively means that a club that allows Ecstasy testing can have its license taken away – the police can use Ecstasy testing as ‘proof’ of drug taking and have a venue shut down for good. This means a greater chance of consuming non-MDMA substances like DOB, DXM and PMA which really can be lethal.
Thirdly, the UK Government do not follow Dutch practice and publicise the discovery of lethal ‘ecstasy’ pills – the National Poisons Unit will test pills and pass data onto people like the police, but Joe Public is kept in the dark. Luckily, it’s legal to own an Ecstasy Testing Kit in the UK.
Used correctly, MDMA doesn’t necessarily have to be a killer at all – certainly in comparison with tobacco and alcohol, which kill many hundreds of thousands every year. More research into safety is needed.