Pubdate: Tue, 06 Feb 2001
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2001 The Hartford Courant
Contact:  285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115
Fax: (860) 520-6941
Author: Amy Pagnozzi, The Hartford Courant
Cited: DanceSafe
The Vaults of Erowid
Note: The audio of the conference, from TLC-DPF, is available here
Bookmarks: (Ecstasy) (Raves)


Before Jessica Malberg co-authored a landmark research study on MDMA
in 1998, she knew little more than the rest of us about the drug
commonly called Ecstasy.

But she'd made a few observations.

Up until the mid-'80s, Jessica noted, the press on it was phenomenal.
"I'd read about it in The New York Times," recalls Malberg, who was
then a New Jersey high school student. "I remember reading that it was
a really safe drug."

Not just safe. Therapeutic!

"Penicillin for the soul" was but one accolade lavished upon this
laboratory creation we now damn as deadly. The truth must lie
somewhere between. But where?

Before its 1985 designation as a Class 1 narcotic, you almost never
heard of Ecstasy hurting anyone; indeed, such cases were few until

"It's only in the last five years or so that all of these deaths of
kids taking it have been reported," notes Malberg.

On Friday in San Francisco she was one among a panel of experts
struggling to agree about what "facts" are really known about MDMA.
Malberg was attending a scientific conference titled "The State of
Ecstasy," sponsored by the California Society of Addiction Medicine
and the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, among other

Malberg, a post-doctoral associate in Yale's molecular psychiatry lab,
talked about her landmark 1998 MDMA study under Lewis Seiden at the
University of Chicago: Ecstasy's neurotoxicity in rats under varied
environmental conditions.

The higher they raised the temperature of the laboratory, the more
severe the damage was to the brain cells that release seratonin - a
neuro-transmitting hormone in your brain. These were exactly the same
brain cells neurologist George Ricaurte concluded could be damaged
long-term by MDMA in recent trials on animals and humans.

Malberg and Seiden's results seem to indicate heat may be the
determinant factor in whether they are.

Rats aren't teenagers, of course. Scientists couldn't ethically
subject teenagers to such hazardous conditions. The rats ingested 40
times the average recreational dose. They all died of heat stroke.

Ah, but rave promoters operate outside such restrictions. "Over 100
people have died after taking Ecstasy at rave parties," according to
the nonprofit organization DanceSafe. Not from overdose - heat stroke.
"It can happen even if you only have one tablet," notes DanceSafe.

It's simple science. Ecstasy's part psychedelic, part amphetamine.
Stimulants cause body temperature to rise. Taken in a hot setting (a
rave), it rises more. Dance, it goes still higher.

"A lot of the promoters turn off the taps at raves and sell bottles of
$6 water," notes Malberg. "Plus," she says, "even a small amount of
the cough medicine DXM," which often adulterates "E", interferes "with
your ability to sweat."

Most ravers aren't aware overheating isn't one of the drug's "normal"
effects - or that it's largely preventable no matter what else is going on.

More than 100 lives snuffed out: not from Ecstasy or raves or even
heat stroke. From enforced ignorance!

Dress sparely, drink a pint of water each hour, sit out some songs
and, if you feel the least bit warm, go outside for a breather. That's
all they needed to know.

Nobody told them because nobody can. America's sons and daughters die
at raves, subjects of a covert clinical trial, courtesy of the feds.

It's rhetoric I speak, but not unjust rhetoric.

Prevention is the sole mandate of modern drug education. So long as a
program receives federal funds, teens receive scare-tactic admonitions
on how to remain drug-free - and no advice on how to stay alive if
they don't.

"There is no information on how to reduce risks, avoid problems or
prevent abuse," says Marsha Rosenbaum of the Lindesmith Center-Drug
Policy Foundation, which hosted the "State of Ecstasy."

Just telling a kid to wait until he comes down before driving can run
you afoul for acknowledging a model other than 24/7 sobriety.

Kids desperately want the straight dope, absent of propagandizing.
When Malberg was doing her Ecstasy research, the questions from kids
never ceased.

"Even young teenagers were very curious. They wanted the science. They
came to me because I wasn't their teacher or DARE counselor," she
says. Not only did they locate relevant abstracts of journal articles
she pointed them toward, they returned with more questions, having
read them. "Kids really understand this information when you're not
dumbing down science and exaggerating the risks," Malberg said.

There was a good measure of teens in the conference and even more
listening to the live webcast, I would suppose.

I couldn't connect, myself. The live feed's capacity was gridlocked
for nine hours, owing to an announcement at and other
sites frequented by youths.

Afterward, it became a hot chat group topic, though it never usurped
the case of the Colorado girl who went into a coma on her 16th
birthday after taking a single clover-shaped Ecstasy tab. The kids are
really sweating about that.

Message No. 23446 on the bulletin boards, posted by jimmy420
in reply to "Girl in Colorado dead from E" from Too Stoned To Type:
Jimmy420 told Too Stoned, "Again I refer to erowid," posting the link:

The Vaults of Erowid. I knew of this nonprofit Web site - and knew
that kids also use it as a resource for risk-reduction information
about drugs, along with, a site with similar files.

Clicking on the Erowid link takes you to: "Caution: Ecstasy tablets bearing
the Mitsubishi logo and containing PMA (a similar, but more dangerous
chemical than MDMA), have been found in many areas of the U.S. It is
believed that more than eight deaths have occurred as the result of
ingestion of these pills.

"Also ... continue to be careful about purchasing or using 'green
triangles' and 'clover' shaped tablets which are being sold as MDMA
but are, in many cases, actually DXM."

The caution was posted two months before the Boulder girl's Sweet
Sixteen. Was her tablet tainted? We don't know yet. Would she have
heeded such a warning, had she received it? Maybe or maybe not - but
surely she could have been given that chance. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake