Another summer festival season, another slate of tragic overdoses and a few overwrought reactions about the need to ban electronic music parties. “Party drugs” in general have been blamed for the deaths of two at a Toronto music festival and another young person at a B.C. festival. Another six were treated at a Calgary festival for overdoses, though all got help in time. Advocates argue that MDMA, when taken safely and in the right amounts by healthy adults, can be relatively innocuous. It’s time to talk about MDMA’s history, its Canadian connection, and that it might also be time to talk about harm reduction.
Several top public health officials are proposing a rethinking of current illegal-drug policies they assert spurs on a global problem involving ecstasy, one that even the White House says is made in Canada, specifically B.C. But the suggestion for dialogue about a careful, science-based crafting of new health-oriented regulations comes at the same time the federal government has taken the polar opposite course with its omnibus crime bill. In mid-March, the class of drugs that includes the substance MDMA — considered the pure and original form of ecstasy — was bumped up to a Schedule I drug under Bill C-10, giving it heightened status alongside heroin and cocaine.
Media reports of two deaths at the weekend in the same party venue have once again been accompanied by police suggestions that the drug responsible is ecstasy that may be from a "contaminated" batch. Speculation as to the cause of these tragic deaths is unhelpful, and recent experience with mephedrone has shown such preliminary comments are often quite wrong, we will know the truth only when toxicology results are reported.