The recent report ‘The Netherlands and Synthetic Drugs: An Inconvenient Truth’ argues for increasing resources to expand anti-drug efforts in the Netherlands. In a topical opinion piece, Tom Blickman addresses the crucial issues at hand.
Australians should be able to buy a pure form of ecstasy from their local pharmacy to curtail the harm caused by contaminated blackmarket pills. Melbourne pharmacist Joshua Donelly and leading doctor Professor David Penington say many Australians taking the drug were probably swallowing contaminated versions that put them at greater risk of harm. In the Journal of Law and Medicine, Donelly said although no drug was completely risk-free, compared to other drugs MDMA caused "negligible" harm to users and people around them.
Dr Paul Quigley, an emergency medicine specialist and clinical toxicologist at Wellington Hospital, says the legalisation of pure MDMA - the main ingredient in recreational drug ecstasy, which has euphoric effects - should be considered to protect users from other, more dangerous substances. He said MDMA had been around for about 30 years and was a prescription medicine used in the 1970s for psychiatric purposes - so it had been clinically tested on people. (See also: Should pure ‘ecstasy’ be regulated? – Expert reaction)
The latest data on ecstasy – taken from pills seized by police in England and Wales between July and October of last year – reveals that the average pinger contains 108mg of MDMA, making them the strongest they've ever been in the UK. For context, "back in the day" – i.e. during the Second Summer of Love, as rave took off here in the late-80s and early-90s – most pills were around the 80mg mark. Which is close to what's seen by ecstasy researchers as the "acceptable" dose (70-75mg) for an average-sized adult during one drug-taking session.
Judge Gerard Hogan made an unexpected decision to allow for the possession of some drugs in a ruling on an appeal with the backing of two of his judicial colleagues at the Court of Appeal who agreed with his assessment of Ireland’s drug laws. His 30-page ruling can be read in full here. The Dáil will sit late tonight to pass emergency legislation in order to reclassify drugs – including ecstasy, ketamine and magic mushrooms.
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.
Clubbers are regularly taking the former legal high mephedrone alongside ecstasy and cocaine, a trend that experts warn could have grave health implications. Research found that polydrug use was now the norm among clubbers, who are happy to mix legal, newly banned and established illegal club drugs. It indicates that criminalising drugs has little effect on consumption other than to provide new revenue streams for dealers selling established illicit substances. Experts say the findings are important because what happens on the club scene is often copied by wider society later on.
Ecstasy users should not be charged by police, former Labor health minister Neal Blewett said during a provocative keynote address to the peak police drug and alcohol forum in Australasia. Dr Blewett believes resources should target the most serious drug abusers, adding that cannabis laws around the country were ''chaotic'' and also needed reform. ''Already we struggle with drugs, including designer drugs scarcely on our horizon in the past,'' said Dr Blewett.
Colombia's Justice Minister, Ruth Stella Correa, has said a new drugs bill would decriminalise personal use of synthetic drugs, such as ecstasy. The proposal would replace current laws, which ban cocaine and marijuana, although people are not prosecuted for possessing small amounts. Colombia's legislation is being re-assessed in an attempt to tackle drug use, trafficking and related issues.
There is a real concern among many scientists that the government's classification of ecstasy as Class A overstates the danger it poses to society and inhibits important research that could help people suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Another area where MDMA could be useful is in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Scientists believe it could be successful at targeting the part of the brain that causes rumination and repetitive thinking about negative experiences.
A report by a group of prominent Australians that recommends Australia rethink its criminalisation of illicit drugs has been backed by the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association. The report recommended that cannabis and ecstasy be decriminalised for people aged 16 and older, who are willing to be recorded on a national confidential user's register. Users would be able to purchase drugs from an approved supplier, likely a chemist.
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.
B.C.'s top health official says taking pure ecstasy can be "safe" when consumed responsibly by adults, despite warnings by police in Alberta and British Columbia about the dangers of the street drug after a rash of deaths. Dr. Perry Kendall asserts the risks of MDMA — the pure substance originally synonymous with ecstasy — are overblown, and that its lethal dangers only arise when the man-made chemical is polluted by money-hungry gangs who cook it up.
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.
Ecstasy, the drug of choice for the clubbers of the early 1990s, is making a comeback. Once synonymous with the rave scene, its popularity declined as the diminishing amount of methylenedioxymethamphe-tamine, or MDMA, the potent chemical once found in ecstasy tablets, saw a new generation of clubbers seek alternative substances. At the peak of its popularity, ecstasy was rarely out of the news with the designer drug blamed for a spate of deaths, often wrongly.
Doctors are planning the first clinical trial of ecstasy in the UK, to see whether the drug can be beneficial to the traumatised survivors of child abuse, rape and war. Professor David Nutt, the psychopharmacologist who used to head the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs until he fell out with the Labour home secretary and was sacked, said: "I feel quite strongly that many drugs with therapeutic potential have been denied to patients and researchers because of the drugs regulation."
Many people believe that ecstasy is merely a synthetic drug that is manufactured solely with chemicals, so-called precursors. However, the main raw material for ecstasy, safrole, is extracted from various plants and trees in the form of safrole-rich oils—also known as sassafras oil. Preventing ecological damage and unsustainable harvesting of safrole-rich oils is urgently needed to preserve fragile ecosystems.
Due to its prevalence of use, MDMA is a significant public health issue. The Council believes that criminal justice measures will only have limited effect and strongly advises the promulgation of public health messages. It is of vital importance that issues of classification do not detract from messages concerning public health.