Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jul 2006
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Michele Mandel
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


Woman Who Lost Only Sister To Overdose Asks Why Ecstasy's Risks Are Ignored

Next Wave Of Users Line Up For Drug

The memories come flooding back. The shock. The heartache.

Another young woman dead, killed by a seemingly innocuous little 
pill; another family left devastated by the senselessness of it all.

Nicole Amaral knows only too well the grieving an Ajax family is now 
going through as they deal with their 15-year-old daughter's overdose 
from Ecstasy. Just three years ago, and the police were knocking on 
her family's door with the news that still resonates to this day.

Her only sister was dead.

Tiffany Mahoney was just 19, with a part-time job at Home Depot and 
plans to begin studying social work.

'One-Time, Bad Thing'

On that March 20, 2004, she had left her home in Kitchener and headed 
to Toronto with friends for a night of fun in the Entertainment 
District. After last call, they headed to an after-hours club on 
Dundas Ave. W. near Spadina Ave. and it was there that Tiffany drank 
the water mixed with powdered Ecstasy.

"I don't know if she was aware it could cause death," says her older 
sister, a graphic artist in Kitchener. "She wanted to have a good 
time and there might have been some peer pressure there. I don't 
think this was something she did all the time. I think it was a 
one-time, bad thing."

With fatal results.

Almost immediately, Tiffany began feeling ill. On their way home, she 
began vomiting in the back seat. Instead of seeking medical help, 
they took her to a Georgetown motel room. For several hours, Tiffany 
lay moaning, unable to walk or speak. When she stopped breathing, her 
friends finally called 911.

By then it was too late.

Amaral almost collapsed when she got the terrible news that her only 
sibling was dead. Three years later and she mourns her still.

"It's completely devastated us. It's quite a loss. We're still trying 
to get over it," the 26-year-old explains softly. "It's hard knowing 
she's not going to be there, that we're not going to see her graduate 
or see her get married or have her there when I have children.

"It's the big family events and sometimes it's just that there's 
nobody there to call and talk to, especially when there was just the 
two of you."

Amaral had hoped that her sister's death would warn other teens away 
from the drug. But Ecstasy is rarely in the news any more; the number 
of deaths has declined sharply since the high of nine overdoses in 
2000. "It appeared to go off our radar," deputy Ontario coroner Dr. 
James Cairns says.

Now with this Ecstasy death of a 15-year-old, many worry that we may 
be poised at the start of the next generation's deadly dance with the 
designer drug.

"My father and I don't feel that things have changed enough or that 
there are enough campaigns against it," insists Amaral. "You see 
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers everywhere and anti-smoking ads on TV 
and nothing that's aimed at that age demographic to do with drugs."

After her sister died, the officer in charge of the investigation 
asked if she'd be willing to speak to kids about what her family has 
endured. She eagerly agreed and then never heard from him again.

With news of another young girl's death, Amaral is more determined 
than ever to speak out. She's not sure how to go about it, but she 
wants to launch a campaign that would educate teens about the dangers 
of drugs like Ecstasy. For kids, she says, booze is often hard to 
come by while Ecstasy is a quick, affordable high -- but one many 
don't realize can deliver a lethal dose in just one tablet.

Preaching Ineffective

Preaching doesn't work, she knows, but Amaral believes that hearing 
her story might dissuade some.

"It wouldn't be a Just Say No thing," she says. "You know kids, you 
tell them not to and it just makes them curious. It has to be someone 
like me who has lost somebody, someone who they can look at and feel 
is not a parent telling them what to do."

In some ways, Amaral would be turning into the social worker her 
sister had always hoped to be.

It's too late for Tiffany, too late for a 15-year-old Ajax girl.

But Amaral has to believe that maybe, just maybe, when they see the 
pools of pain in her eyes, they may think twice before popping that 
innocent looking pill.
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