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Updates And Information About MDMA -- 'Ecstasy'
Canada Major Source of Ecstasy and Amphetamines, UN Report Says
On June 25, 2009, the Vancouver Sun ("Canada Primary Source of Ecstasy in Drug Trade") reported that this year's "United Nations report on the world drug trade reiterates what [British Columbian] police forces have been saying for a couple of years now: Canada has become a global producer of 'party' drugs, especially ecstasy. The article states that "Canada has grown to be the most important producer of MDMA for North America" and also plays a major role in supplying the drug to Japan and Australia. Additionally, the UN found that Canada's participation in the global amphetamine trade was on the rise. As the Sun states, "Export of illegal amphetamines produced in Canada, the report claims, has grown to 20 per cent of the country's output in 2007 from only five per cent in 2006."
The article claims that the report's findings are not "particularly new information to local police forces and academics." However, some "academics were skeptical of the report's pedigree, considering it to be ideologically driven by hard-line U.S. drug policy. They note that "the U.S. accounted for more than 80 per cent of the methamphetamine labs reported worldwide in 2007 -- almost 6,000 of them. Canada reported only 17." According to the report, the issue revolves less around the sheer number of Canadian drug labs than it does around those labs' sizes. The Sun quotes the reports assertion that "The number of [methamphetamine] laboratories reported by Mexico and Canada remains comparatively small, although the size of the laboratories may on average be larger." In the words of Canadian criminologist Neil Boyd, "There's a suggestion [in the report] that trafficking [in these drugs] has increased since 2003, [...] which is probably true. But if you read the whole thing, Canada is just a small part in a global market."
Research into the therapeutic effects of Ecstasy (MDMA) on post traumatic stress to be carried out in South Carolina will include as subjects recently-returned US combat troops. The Guardian reported on Feb. 17, 2005 ( "Ecstasy Trials For Combat Stress") that "American soldiers traumatised by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be offered the drug ecstasy to help free them of flashbacks and recurring nightmares. The US food and drug administration has given the go-ahead for the soldiers to be included in an experiment to see if MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, can treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Scientists behind the trial in South Carolina think the feelings of emotional closeness reported by those taking the drug could help the soldiers talk about their experiences to therapists. Several victims of rape and sexual abuse with post-traumatic stress disorder, for whom existing treatments are ineffective, have been given MDMA since the research began last year."
The Guardian noted that "According to the US national centre for post-traumatic stress disorder, up to 30% of combat veterans suffer from the condition at some point in their lives. Known as shell shock during the first world war and combat fatigue in the second, the condition is characterised by intrusive memories, panic attacks and the avoidance of situations which might force sufferers to relive their wartime experiences."
According to the Guardian, "Michael Mithoefer, the psychiatrist leading the trial, said: 'It's looking very promising. It's too early to draw any conclusions but in these treatment-resistant people so far the results are encouraging. People are able to connect more deeply on an emotional level with the fact they are safe now.' He is about to advertise for war veterans who fought in the last five years to join the study."
The Guardian reported that "Dr Mithoefer said the MDMA helped people discuss traumatic situations without triggering anxiety. 'It appears to act as a catalyst to help people move through whatever's been blocking their success in therapy.' The existing drug-assisted therapy sessions last up to eight hours, during music is played. The patients swallow a capsule containing a placebo or 125mg of MDMA - about the same or a little more than a typical ecstasy tablet. Psychologists assess the patients before and after the trial to judge whether the drug has helped."
For more information about the trials, check out the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
Researchers and activists celebrated a landmark event in early March. The Washington Post reported on March 2, 2004 ( "DEA Approves Trial Use Of Ecstasy In Trauma Cases") that "Capping a 17-year effort by a small but committed group of activists, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has agreed to let a South Carolina physician treat 12 trauma victims with the illegal street drug ecstasy in what will be the first U.S.-approved study of the recreational drug's therapeutic potential. The DEA's move marks a historic turn for a drug that has long been both venerated and vilified."
According to the Post, "Although the study's approval is by no means a federal endorsement of uncontrolled use, it will give ecstasy's proponents their first legitimate opportunity to prove the drug can offer medical benefits. 'MDMA opens the doorway for people to feel deep feelings of love and empathy, which is the core of being human,' said Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Sarasota, Fla., the nonprofit research and educational organization funding the trauma study. 'We should be looking at that and learning from that.' As a result of the DEA action, sometime in the next few weeks the study's first participant -- still to be selected -- will check in for an overnight stay at an outpatient counseling center in the Charleston area. (Investigators have asked that the location not be precisely identified). He or she will take 125 milligrams of 99.87 percent pure 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine -- probably the highest quality MDMA on Earth -- synthesized by a Purdue University chemist."
Researchers who earlier claimed that even a single dose of Ecstasy could lead to death have been forced to retract their claims. The BBC reported on Sept. 9, 2003 ( "'Killer' Ecstasy Claim Was False") that "Research suggesting just one Ecstasy tablet could harm humans was based on a laboratory mistake, it has been revealed. US experts found that four out of 10 monkeys died or were severely damaged after a small dose of a drug, at first believed to be Ecstasy. In fact, a far more potent drug had been given to the animals by mistake. The Johns Hopkins University team were forced to withdraw their paper from eminent research journal Science."
Experts were astounded that a paper with such an obvious and egregious error was ever published. The BBC noted that "Colin Blakemore, a Professor of Physiology at Oxford University, said that the sheer number of primates left dead or severely damaged already seemed implausible. He told the BBC: 'Whatever we think about the toxicity of Ecstasy, 40% of people using it each weekend do not die.'"
Though admitting his error, the lead researcher, George Ricaurte, maintains that Ecstasy is a serious danger. The BBC reported "The problem with the study came to light when the researchers, led by Professor George Ricaurte, tried to repeat it using Ecstasy in tablet form rather than in the form of an injection. The results achieved bore no relation to the earlier findings. In his retraction, published on the journal's website, Professor Ricaurte admitted that their Ecstasy sample had arrived at the laboratory in the same package as another, more potent form of amphetamine. There had been a mix-up between the two, perhaps due to a labelling error, and the wrong drug had been given to the monkeys instead of Ecstasy. Tests on brains taken from the monkeys which died confirmed the mistake. However, Dr Ricaurte said: 'This apparent labelling error does not call into question the results of multiple previous studies demonstrating the neurotoxic potential of MDMA ( Ecstasy ) in various animal species.'"
Other scientists express concern that this incident could have a ripple effect, damaging the credibility of other researchers. As the BBC noted, "Professor Blakemore said that the error was likely to damage the credibility of other scientists carrying out perfectly valid experiments on the long-term effects of drugs such as Ecstasy. He told the BBC: 'It degrades respect for science and I think will have a very dangerous and damaging effect on the attitudes of young people towards scientific evidence and advice about drugs.' He said he was unsure how the normally-rigourous 'peer-reviewing' procedure - in which other leading scientists are asked to look over research papers prior to publication looking for mistakes - had failed in this instance."
The so-called 'Crack House' statute, which would make venue operators and club owners criminally liable for drug use by event attendees, which was defeated in the 2001-2002 legislative session, is back. The law is currently Section 5131 of S. 22, the 'Justice Enhancement and Domestic Security Act' of 2003.
For more information and analysis on the RAVE Act and its impact see: http://www.nomoredrugwar.org/music/rave_act.htm. For full text and other legislative info regarding S.22, go to the Library of Congress's Thomas website.
The city of Racine, WI, has dropped charges against some 440 people who had been issued citations for attending a fundraiser/rave at a local bar. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Jan. 16, 2003 ( "Rave-Goers Achieve Victory In Racine") that "The 440 multi-pierced, electronic-music-loving party-goers who were stung with $968 citations for attending a rave party gained a sweeping victory Thursday. City prosecutors admitted they couldn't prove their case and agreed to dismiss all of the citations. Even ravers who pleaded no contest and paid a reduced fine will get their money back. The only consolation for the city is that, according to the agreement, the Milwaukee-based American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which represented most of the party-goers, said it would not sue the city."
The dismissals were not a complete surprise. As the Journal Sentinel reported on Dec. 8, 2002 ( "More Ravers Than Expected Plead Not Guilty") that "A storm of denunciation descended upon city officials after it was revealed that police had issued $968 municipal tickets to young adults attending a Nov. 2 rave, a party known for distinctive dance music and, oftentimes, illegal drug use. Even city officials who supported the crackdown said the fine was too high. In response, the city attorney's office offered to reduce the fine to $100 for anyone who pleaded no contest to being an 'inmate of a disorderly house.' But when the first wave of those ticketed made their initial appearance in Municipal Court last week, only 19 of 206 took the deal. If that trend continues on Monday and on Dec. 16, when the rest of those cited will make their initial court appearances, the city could be facing the costly prospect of hundreds of trials - or dismissing the citations en masse."
The bust sparked nationwide controversy. The Journal Sentinel reported on Dec. 14, 2002 ( "Rave Bust Creates Buzz Online, Across Nation") that "Through e-mail, Web sites and Internet newsgroups, rave-goers have been sharing their outrage over the $968 citations issued to 441 people at a Nov. 2 rave party in Racine. And many are also following news stories as most of the people cited begin to fight their cases in court." Police have conducted raids on parties and raves in the past, "But rave fans think it was outrageous that merely attending the Racine party resulted in getting a citation for being an 'inmate of a disorderly house/controlled substances.' Pointing out that only three people at the party were arrested on drug charges, they said in interviews that they're spreading word about the Racine bust, in part, to be prepared if the tactic is used elsewhere."
In a move to prove that Congress has no clue about how to proceed in the war on drugs, a bill, S.2633, is moving through both the Senate that would make event promoters criminally liable for any illegal behavior on the part of attendees. As the New Haven Advocate reported on August 1, 2002 ( "Rave On At Club Senate"), "Cleverly titled the RAVE ( Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy ) Act, this bill seeks to modify the 1986 'crackhouse law' to prosecute any employee of any club where someone is caught doing a drug. The language is broad enough to trap anyone in its net, inclusive enough to target such accoutrements as 'over-priced bottles of water,' 'chill rooms,' and 'neon glow sticks,' and the bill is serious enough to bring federal charges--$250,000 or more in fines and jail time. Simply put, the RAVE Act could shut down the safe electronic scene for good, shoving it back into the illegal factories where ambulances don't stand at the ready and drug use is not monitored at all."
A broad coalition of civil rights advocates, electronic music fans, drug policy reform organizations, and elements of the hospitality industry has formed to oppose the overly broad measure. As the Advocate noted, "Sponsored by Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs members Dick Durbin ( D-IL ), Orrin Hatch ( R-UT ), Chuck Grassley ( R-IA ) and Patrick Leahy ( D-VT ), the bill is considered so uncontroversial that it quickly passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now they are trying to pass the RAVE Act under 'unanimous consent rules,' meaning it would be passed without a roll-call vote. 'That's generally for non-controversial items like declaring a certain week to be National Broccoli Week,' says Graham Boyd, director of the Drug Policy Litigation Project with the national American Civil Liberties Union. The senators, he says, 'didn't realize the implications, which is that instead of targeting drug users, the bill targets music, dance and other activities protected by the First Amendment. It also targets legitimate businesses.' Thanks to the ACLU, the federal court ruled that glow sticks, pacifiers, Vicks VapoRub and flashing lights did not constitute 'drug paraphernalia.' The Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund ( EM:DEF ), a non-profit group based in California, has been fighting these targeted attacks by law enforcement and federal agents for years, trying to protect industry professionals and educate the public about electronic events."
Common Sense for Drug Policy President Kevin B. Zeese recently wrote on the RAVE Act in an op-ed published by both the San Francisco and Los Angeles Daily Journals ( "High Anxiety -- Irrational Fear Of Ecstasy, Not Real Danger, Inspires Measure). According to Zeese, "The bill creates a new crime requiring only a state of mind of 'knowingly' for the conduct of those who 'open, lease, rent, use or maintain any place, whether permanently or temporarily, for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.' According to this provision, if a landlord knowingly ( the phrase 'intentionally' is not included in this new crime ) made a lease with someone or knowingly gave someone the right to enter their property, then the property owner could be liable. This new crime creates an impossible burden for any property owner. Property owners allow people on their land to visit, establish homes, spend the night, camp, shop, swim, bicycle and listen to music; sometimes people who enter the premises use drugs. Owners can maintain some level of security, but they can never stop most persons who enter from smoking pot or taking illegal pills if those persons desire to do so and sneak the drugs in. Certainly the government cannot expect theaters, campgrounds or homeowners to institute the kind of security that we see at the airports or the border - and people still smuggle in drugs at those locations. Landlords and property managers are not police. And that is the way it should be in a free country."
The English magazine New Scientist published an extensive article regarding Ecstasy in its April 20, 2002 ( "Ecstasy On The Brain"). In it, writers David Concar and Claire Ainsworth were able to debunk many of the myths about Ecstasy which the US government propagates. As they put it in the article, " In a hearing before the Senate last July, NIDA's then director Alan Leshner stated: 'There is across-the-board agreement that brain damage does occur.' Research, he added, has 'unequivocally shown that MDMA literally damages brain cells'. New Scientist went behind the scenes to talk to a wide range of researchers. We found that no such agreement exists. Nobody claims ecstasy is benign. It isn't, and never could be-no drug is. Yet few of the experts we contacted believe that research has yet proved ecstasy causes lasting damage to human brain cells or memory. Far from it, according to some, the highest-profile evidence to date simply cannot be trusted."
The article goes on:
Regarding the brain scans, New Scientist found:
Regarding the impact that the untruths and hypocrisy of
this seeming propaganda could
make on educational efforts aimed toward discouraging young people
from using ecstasy, New Scientist reported:
The US Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center in December 2001 issued its report "Drugs and the Internet - An Overview of the Threat to America's Youth. According to the report, "The threat perpetuated by these individuals and groups as it relates to adolescents and young adults in the United States can be defined and circumscribed by the following: The threat to adolescents and young adults in the United States accessing the Internet consists of information, disseminated by drug offenders or others, that is intended to facilitate the production, use, or sale of federally scheduled, nonprescription drugs. Information facilitating production includes explanations of equipment or other resources needed or processes used. Information facilitating use includes explanations of the nature, effects, or administration methods of drugs. Information facilitating sales includes explanations of how or where drugs may be obtained or mechanisms allowing for online purchase of drugs." ( from "The Nature of the Threat")
The report lists five sorts of purveyors of information which they consider threats: "Drug offenders," "drug culture advocates," "advocates of an expanded freedom of expression," "anarchist individuals and groups," and "other lawbreakers." ( from "The Nature of the Threat") Civil libertarians have expressed concern that the government's definitions are overly broad. Wired News reported on March 13, 2002 ( "DOJ's Dot-Narc Rave Strategy"), that "'Much of what the government seems interested in is protected by the First Amendment,' said ACLU lawyer Graham Boyd, who is in charge of tracking the government as it begins a crackdown on the electronica dance scene." Wired quotes Boyd as saying that "'information about the effects of ecstasy, information on harm, and measures to protect yourself if you are taken; that is all legal. It's just speech. One thing that is fundamentally American is that we don't attack the music, we attack the drugs.'"
The UK's Home Office announced that it will "ignore the personal use of Ecstasy and other so-called dance drugs in nightclubs." The Times of London reported on March 8, 2002 ( "Home Office Softens Line Against Dance Drugs") that "In a new set of Home Office guidelines the Government accepts that drug-taking is a part of youth culture that cannot be eradicated. It wants the public to recognise that drug misuse has to be fought on many fronts."
The Times reported that "The guide underpins the Government's strategy of focusing on dealers and the impact of hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine while developing ways of minimising the harm caused by dance club drugs. It gives clubs advice on how to prevent dealing and how to make the venues safer for clubbers using drugs, including the provision of 'chill-out' rooms, water and better ventilation. It also called for 'amnesty boxes' where young people can deposit drugs they are carrying before they are searched. The guide also urges clubs to instal metal detectors to curb gun crime in big cities. The guide, Safer Clubbing, says: 'Controlled drug use has become a large part of youth culture and is, for many young people, an integral part of a night out.'"
The Times reported: "Releasing the guide, Bob Ainsworth, a junior Home Office Minister, admitted the reality of the scale of drug-taking. He said there was no point ignoring the drug culture surrounding the club scene. 'We have to recognise that some clubbers will continue to ignore the risks and carry on taking dangerous drugs,' Mr Ainsworth said. 'If we cannot stop them from taking drugs then we must be prepared to take steps to reduce the harm that they may cause themselves. We are not asking club owners to condone the use of drugs on their premises. What we're asking them to do is accept that we're not going to be successful in the entirety in keeping drugs out of the club scene.'"
The Federal Food and Drug Administration has finally given its approval for medical tests of Ecstasy, otherwise known as MDMA, for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 6, 2001 ( "FDA Permits First Test Of Ecstasy As Treatment For Stress"), "Sixteen years after the so-called love drug Ecstasy was criminalized, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first study of the substance as treatment for people with posttraumatic stress disorder. The nonprofit group conducting the small pilot study with an eye toward developing Ecstasy, or MDMA, as a prescription drug says the recent wave of terrorism makes finding effective treatments for the condition more important than ever. 'There's something ennobling about taking MDMA to work through things and really grapple with deep, painful emotions at that level of honesty and openness,' says study sponsor Rick Doblin, founder and director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, an organization that advocates using Ecstasy and other psychedelic drugs for therapy."
According to the Journal report, "If all goes as planned, the study will include 20 subjects; 12 will undergo MDMA-assisted therapy twice, each time taking a single, 125-milligram capsule, and eight will get a placebo. Each person will also undergo 16 hours of therap without drugs, over three months. All sessions will be under the direct supervision of a husband-and-wife team of therapists, Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist and Annie Mithoefer, a psychiatric nurse in Charleston. MAPS says it will use a supply of MDMA stored at Purdue University in Indiana that was manufactured for earlier studies." The study is to be conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, though final approval by the Institutional Review Board is needed.
Not surprisingly, some drug warriors are unhappy about the decision. "The test is already drawing strong criticism. Alan Leshner, director of the government's National Institute on Drug Abuse says, 'I know of no evidence in the scientific literature that demonstrates the efficacy of Ecstasy for any clinical indication.' While Mr. Leshner hasn't reviewed the MAPS protocol, he says, 'we don't give drugs of abuse to naive subjects except under extraordinary circumstance.'"
The American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Policy Project has filed a class action lawsuit against the "extremist tactics" of the Drug Enforcement Administration's assault on youth culture. According to an ACLU news release in August, 2001 ( "ACLU Lawsuit Fights Government's Extremist Tactics In Culture War Against Raves"), "the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has banned symbols of rave culture such as masks, glow items, pacifiers, and vapor rub from a prominent dance venue, saying that these items constitute 'drug paraphernalia.' 'It is nonsensical to think that glow sticks and masks can be used to ingest drugs, which is how the law defines paraphernalia,' said Graham Boyd, Director of the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project. 'It is time the American public realized that raves are not the havens for rampant drug use that the government has led them to believe and are in fact an established form of youth culture.'"
According to the ACLU, "Although the DEA's all-out assault on the State Palace Theater fell short of its goal of conviction, the agency is still pursuing its war against rave culture. In a plea deal put forth by the DEA, the government has forbidden all wearing of masks, glow items and pacifiers, and has banned the use of vapor rub at electronic dance events held at the theater. As a result, theater staff have been forced to censor the actions and art of its guests and artists. Today's lawsuit comes as a result of that plea bargain, which, the ACLU complaint said, 'embodies the government's unconstitutional assault against the electronic music culture.' In addition to protecting the First Amendment rights of music lovers and performance artists, the ACLU is also challenging the plea bargain's violation of theater attendees' right to due process and against unreasonable searches and seizures."
Federal Attempt To Seize Dance Club Fails; Authorities Had Tried Civil Foreiture Under 'Crack House' Law
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on August 2, 2001 ( "Federal Rave Case Ends With A Whimper") that "At a swift and predictable sentencing hearing, the company that leased the State Palace Theater for raves was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine for violating the so-called 'crack house' law. The company also promised to keep glow sticks and paciiers out of the theater's raves. Such accessories, prosecutors said, often double as drug paraphernalia or dancers high on Ecstasy, a pill that provides a euphoric rush that heightens the senses."
According to the Times-Picayune:
The New York Times reported on April 28, 2001 ( ("Club Owners Becoming Focus Of Effort To Combat Drug Use") about moves in other cities. According to the Times, "Law enforcement agencies and local governments around the country are increasingly going after the clubs themselves, saying that the electronic music they play has a close connection to abuse of these drugs." According to the Times, "In New York, law enforcement officials have long used local nuisance laws to shutter nightclubs with a history of drug problems. But in the last year, other large cities, like Chicago, and even small ones, like Lewiston, Me., have adopted ordinances to regulate raves -- giant all-night parties featuring electronic music and light shows. And, for the first time, they are imposing criminal penalties on the owners of nightclubs or other dance spaces where drug use is discovered." The Times also reports that according to a Dallas narcotics investigator, Lt. William Turnage, "Texas officials are working to adopt some of the ordinances of other cities to curb the electronic music scene."
The Times also notes that "Most bad reactions to Ecstasy occur when it is combined with other drugs and alcohol. Those who overdose usually experience overheating -- sometimes fatal in and of itself -- as well as faintness, panic attacks, severe dehydration and loss of consciousness."
There are a number of resources online for more information about Ecstasy, other club drugs, and raves. The organization DanceSafe works within the rave community to encourage safe practices. The Drug Policy Alliance has also done a great deal of excellent work on Ecstasy. Also, the ACLU has a section of their website devoted to the case of US v. Brunet in New Orleans with links to a great number of resources.
Get the facts about Ecstasy by checking out the Ecstasy Section of Drug War Facts.