Pubdate: Tue, 10 Jul 2001
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2001 The Toronto Star
Author: Sarah Helppi, London, Ont


Re Boy, 16, dies after swallowing pills at downtown rave, July 9.

When I learned that someone so young lost his life at a rave Sunday, I was 
instantly saddened. While nothing has been confirmed about the nature of 
the pills this boy took, I believe one can safely assume that they were 
ecstasy, a popular club/rave drug.

This most recent death, coupled with the growing concern about raves and 
the use of club drugs, made me wonder why there is such a lack of resources 
available to users. Educational organizations, such as Dancesafe, have been 
very successful in different areas of the U.S., however, in the Toronto 
area, there appears to be a lack of educational resources even though club 
drugs are widely used throughout the city.

Dancesafe's services are aimed toward non-addicted, recreational drug 
users, and focus on harm-reduction and popular education so people can make 
informed decisions about their drug use. It offers different resources, but 
what might have been most helpful to this young man is their on-site pill 
testing and drug education literature. Pill testing determines the chemical 
content of a pill and volunteers inform someone if there are any dangerous 
substances, such as PMA, in their pill.

Dancesafe has possibly saved hundreds of lives thus far. It does not forbid 
or encourage drug use, it only acts as an unbiased resource.

At this point, one can speculate about the cause of death of this young 
boy, but whatever the case may be in this situation, it is likely that he 
was not educated about the content of his pill or how to stay as cool and 
hydrated as possible during the rave. It is likely that a 
harm-reduction/educational program could have played a role in preventing 
this boy's death. If such programs actually do exist in Toronto, I have 
never come across one.

I believe that implementing a city-wide educational program that advocates 
neither abstinence nor use, but rather informed decisions, would be as 
successful in Canada as it has been in the U.S. For youths, experimenting 
with drugs is like experimenting with sex or alcohol - and we have endless 
sex education and alcohol abuse programs. Sure, they may be illegal 
activities, but we cannot turn our heads away from this part of our 
culture. Club drugs are here and they aren't going away any time soon, so 
let's make it as safe as possible and do our best to avoid tragedies like 
this one.

Sarah Helppi
London, Ont.
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