happen. Fortunately, for the vast majority of people who use ‘death’ is not their reality. Most ecstasy users have a pleasurable effect, that’s why they continue to use the drug, and very few people have had direct contact with someone who has died after taking it. This has resulted in the growing belief that ecstasy is harmless, or at least considerably less harmful than a range of other drugs (I have a great problem with how we continue to compare one drug with others in terms of harm – what may be extremely harmful to one person may not be as problematic for another – ‘different drugs affect different people in different ways at different times’).
themselves who try to find a simple explanation as to why the death occurred – usually pushing the point that it couldn’t be due to MDMA (what
users actually want in their pill), it must have been due to an adulterant of some description (all media outlets ran a story on the possible use of ‘purple speaker’ pills – interestingly the Daily Telegraph called them ‘purple death’)!
Of course we need to talk about death as a possible outcome of ecstasy use, but focussing on death alone (which essentially is what we’re doing currently) and hoping that it is somehow going to act as a deterrent is not going to be effective for some – it’s not
the norm and not their experience for most and, as a result, they reject it! Don’t get me wrong, for some (most probably those who would never use the drug anyway), talking about death is going to work brilliantly but for those who are already using, or exposed to friends who are taking the drug and are considering taking it, it’s highly likely to be regarded as such an extreme outcome that it will be rejected.
‘credible’. When I talk about alcohol to school students I always begin my presentation by trying to ‘win them over’ by highlighting harms associated with alcohol use that they would have already experienced (either through their own drinking or watching or looking after others) – vomiting is my usually way in! Most of them totally relate to vomiting as a very real harm linked to drinking alcohol and once I have them on that, I can pretty well take them anywhere I want! I have gained their trust, they regard me as credible and they are then willing to listen to other information I need to give them … we need to do the same with other drugs, particularly ecstasy.
feeling sick and vomiting – almost every ecstasy user will tell you that at some point they have taken a pill and become extremely nauseous, many actually vomit. Some users experience this over and over again, each time they take the drug and it is one of the most common reasons why people stop using
‘comedown’ and depression (mental health impacts) – this is without doubt the number one reason why most users stop taking ecstasy and it always surprises me that we don’t use this more in our prevention work around the drug. We have a generation of young people who are very conscious of their mental health and we need to do far more about having discussions around the significant impact that an ecstasy comedown can have on school/university, relationships and/or employment
legal implications – drug detection dogs, roadside drug testing, etc – ecstasy is an illegal drug and that isn’t going to change anytime soon! Young people need to know the implications of getting caught with the drug, the difference between ‘possession’ and ‘supply’ and how new law enforcement strategies can impact upon their lives
deaths have occurred in Australia over the years, but when you consider how many people take the drug each weekend, death is not a likely outcome. As already said, when a death is reported
users often look for other excuses for the incident – i.e. it couldn’t be
ecstasy that caused it, it must have been other drugs or the person had a
pre-existing condition. In many cases that is true – it is rare for a person to
die due to ecstasy poisoning as MDMA (the substance people are actually after
in a pill) is not a particularly toxic drug. However, poisonings have occurred
(in growing numbers recently) and no matter how much people may want to believe that ecstasy did not cause
the death the truth is if the person did not take the drug they would still be
user. There have been cases where seemingly perfectly healthy young people use
the drug and experience fits, strokes and heart attacks. Many times these are
people who have used the drug many times and have never had a bad experience.
Put simply there seems to be no rhyme nor reason why these deaths occurred at
that particular time. Of course, ‘knowledge is power’ but it does not inoculate you against all possible harms …