Did Ecstasy Kill All those People in Calgary – or Not?

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Ever since its categorization as a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the DEA in 1985, Ecstasy has been getting a bum rap in the media. We’ve heard everything, from pills being primed with broken glass to Ecstasy causing holes in the brain, all of which have proven to be categorically false. Despite the fact that cigarettes kill over 37,000 Canadians per year, compared to an average of 10 – 24 Ecstasy related deaths annually (which in itself is highly questionable), it is becoming increasingly clear that certain individuals have a vested interest in creating fear and loathing of MDMA in the general public.

A recent spate of “Ecstasy related deaths” across Canada has got the press in a right tizzy. According to The Huffington Post, there were 16 in Vancouver last year, 7 in Calgary since July of 2011.  The above newsclipping dated January 30th 2012, was taken from The Metro. The headline states: “Ecstasy Overdose Patients Flood ER.” Right away, this creates an unmistakeable impression in the minds of upwardly mobile citizens. But then, the second paragraph reads: “The discovery of another body in a northeast Calgary residence Sunday, raised fears that the total number of deaths linked to a toxic compound known as PMMA could rise. Police believe the compound is being used in place of standard MDMA in ecstasy tablets following a recent crackdown by the RCMP.”

Obviously, there is a glaring discrepancy between what the headline proclaims and the actual substance linked to these deaths. It is clear that these fatalities are linked to para-methoxymethamphetamine (PMMA), not MDMA. According to Calgary Police Services, the latter was said to be present along with PMMA in tissue samples in 5 of the 7 deceased victims. PMMA is apparently less expensive to produce and mimics some of MDMA’s effects. However, it can be lethal as it raises body temperature and disrupts serotonin metabolism in the brain, potentially causing brain and organ damage which could lead to death. As explained by Dr. Perry Kendall, Provincial Health Officer for British Colombia in The Huffington Post:

Because it (PMMA) takes effect more slowly than ecstasy’s usual ingredient, called MDMA, users may take more to achieve its hallucinogenic properties. “They think it’s not happening, the onset is also rather mild to start with, so they start taking more pills because they think that they got lower doses and they end up with more significant overdoses,” he told reporters.”That’s a possible explanation for some of the deaths we’ve seen here or in Calgary.”

So you see, something about these so called “Ecstasy deaths” does not add up. First of all, it is extremely unusual for Ecstasy to cause such a high number of casualties within such a short space of time (seven in Calgary within the last six months). It is rather unfortunate that reporter Jeremy Nolais, has opted for sensationalistic journalism. After all, “Ecstasy Overdose” is  more of an eye-grabber than “Ecstasy Tainted with PMMA Linked to Deaths” isn’t it? If Nolais took the time to dig a little deeper, he would have discovered that most Ecstasy related deaths are not due to overdosing, but are linked to circumstances which arise as a result of its physiological effects (heat stroke being a prime example) and users’ reactions to those effects (water intoxication as in the case of British raver, Leah Betts). When Ecstasy is combined with other substances like Dextromethorphan (an active ingredient in cough medicine), diet pills, and amphetamines, the outcome can be fatal. Here’s what Nicholas Saunders, author of “E for Ecstasy” had to say about it:

“In the USA, an examination of the deaths of five people who had taken Ecstasy showed that other potentially lethal medical factors played a major part. Although MDMA was found in the victims’ blood when they died and may have contributed to their death in some unknown or indirect way, in four cases there was an explanation for their death which was not related to taking MDMA. The fifth death may also have been due to other causes.”

Ecstasy is once again taking the blame for failed drug war policies and unscrupulous dealers, who no doubt thought that they could get away with using a cheap substitute for MDMA. What makes this situation all the more tragic is that these deaths most likely could have been avoided if Ecstasy was regulated in the first place. By making it illegal, the government is actually creating a dangerous situation by pushing Ecstasy underground, thus leaving consumers at the mercy of whatever concoction black market chemists have decided to come up with. Another deadly compound, piperazine, which causes fatigue, breathing difficulties and seizures, has been cropping up in pills across Europe. Consequently, more users are turning to MDMA powder and crystals (which are more expensive), and avoiding pills like the plague. Sadly, Ecstasy is not what it used to be 12 – 25 years ago. Chances are you might die before you get high if you pop one of those bastardized replicants nowadays.

So what’s to be done about it? The fact of the matter is people are going to take Ecstasy whether Big Brother likes it or not AND they will continue to do so. A few random deaths will do little to discourage the insatiably curious. Psychoactive experimentation is a rite of passage for millions of people across the globe. It’s high time that governments STOP WASTING taxpayers money on “fighting” a nonsensical drug war – money that would be better spent on providing affordable housing, jobs, and decent pension plans – stuff that matters in the real world . Consumers will always find a way around ridiculous anti-drug policies, which could lead to their demise in some unfortunate circumstances – like the ones involving PMMA. Reports compiled by noteworthies such as Sasha and Ann Shulgin, Leo Zeff and Philip Wolfson, prove that MDMA possesses remarkable therapeutic properties as evidenced by the aforementioned personalities, who have taken the drug and studied its effects in psychotherapy over several years. Ecstasy is much more than a mere party drug. If used correctly, it can be a gateway to profound self-discovery and a greater awareness of one’s connection with the universe. It is the effervescent enemy of an autocratic system ultimately doomed to failure. And that, dear reader, is the real reason why Ecstasy will remain illegal for many years to come.

Note: I welcome  your thoughts and comments on this important topic. Keep your comments concise and to the point. Let’s get a debate going!

Copyright © 2012 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

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4 responses »

  1. The fact is MDMA / Ecstasy has been a schedule I drug for 27 years now with no effect on its use- which continues to grow. But prohibition has had a negative effect on supply- namely that most ectasy pills now contain little to no MDMA, but instead piperazines (BZP, TFMP, mCPP), amphetamine/methamphetamine, DXM, ketamine, PMMA, or some combination of the above.

    This makes the pills much more dangerous- both in the short term and the long term- and means the individual never knows just what drug they are taking (or what combinations to avoid if they are taking other substances as well).

    While some of the blame in these deaths lies at the feet of the producers- so does it at the feet of the politicians and society that banned MDMA.

    People will always alter their consciousness regardless of the law- and they should neither be criminalized- nor have the risks increased because of someone else’s “morality”. Drugs are not a criminal issue- they are a personal and public health issue, and a personal choice that no one else has the right to make for you.

    • Well said! I agree with you 100%. It seems many people are afraid to speak out against a system that seeks to oppress the evolution of human consciousness by outlawing psychoactives. Thanks for having the courage to express your views 😉

      • Indeed- it makes it very hard to speak out when to do so is admitting to being a criminal. And of course- here in the US, one can loose their right to participate in our “democracy”, and to choose those that might effect change, due to nothing more then a drug conviction.

      • Hopefully that will change but not without struggle. Medicinal marijuana is legal in Canada so at least that’s a small step in the right direction! There are people licensed to grow it, yet the social stigma against it even for medical use is so strong. I will be publishing an article on this shortly – stay tuned >

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