13/09 2013

A Plea For Ecstasy Regulation

Ecstasy, an illegal party drug, has taken the lives of two party goers in the last weekend of August this year at the Electric Zoo festival in New York. Although complaints arose about the lack of water at hand and the heath due to the big crowd, the real issue at hand is the illegal status of the drug. In this plea I will explain why even small regulatory fixes won't cut it, and that Ecstasy production has to be regulated under government law in order to rule out the most intense and real risks of this drug use.


From the nineties onwards, policy makers and party organizers in the Netherlands have been working together intensively to quickly professionalize their operations in order to reduce the risks that come with big crowds and drug use. In the Netherlands, big music events such as festivals are ordered to facilitate first aid and emergency departments, enough water in stock, and drug educational stands to give information to visitors in order to reduce the risks as much as possible. The root of drug use, the drug production, never got regulated. So policy makers and party organizers taught it was a good idea to initiate drug-test services at big events such as music festivals in order to take away the risks that come with unregistered, unregulated and uncontrolled drug production.


In 2006, however, under the christian-democratic cabinet (CDA) led by prime minister Balkenende, a zero tolerance policy came to being that was inspired by the New York Police Department. The Ecstasy tests on festivals disappeared and even decriminalized hash and marijuana became illegal to possess on Dutch music festivals ever since. For more on this, read 'A Repressive Climate Dominating The Dutch Drug Policy.'


Although these drug-tests became more difficult to find for beginning and inexperienced users, the Netherlands has locations where drug-tests can be anonymously conducted. This counts for Ecstasy, but also amphetamines and cocaine, for example. So, if the Dutch have this drug-test, why do people still die of polluted Ecstasy? The problem lies not with this drug test. The problem lies in the way most people try and do drugs. Last couple of years, young people of the age sixteen onwards have been found dead due to polluted Ecstasy. When going to a big event for the first time, one will – at some point or another – be tempted to try drugs. When this decision is made, one will not think about looking for information because of the fear of being caught or to be embarrassed about not knowing anything, so the drug will be used without ever having consulted an educational stand or Googled on the possible negative effects the drug might have when used in combination with alcohol or other substances or taking a higher dose than is necessary.


Last month, a girl in the Netherlands died due to the use of Ecstasy that was polluted with PMMA. According to my previous held statement, in the situation of a regulated drug market in which Ecstasy production is controlled, this girl would still be alive. The Dutch government, as well as the United States government, have to start creating a regulated market for Ecstasy in order to prevent people from dying. The drug-tests were a good start but are not enough to stop the spread of polluted Ecstasy tablets. A regulated market takes care of safe tablets and protects its users.


The problem with getting Ecstasy regulated is that instead of treating it as a health issue, illegal drugs are most of the time treated as a nuisance to both the user and the community. Instead of coming with pragmatic solutions, an ideological worldview is pursued by both policy makers and the general public; as it is now the case in the Netherlands and the United States. Instead of stigmatizing the user for being a 'consumptive criminal', different environments of students, gays, business people, DJs, hippies, new-agers, travelers, tourists, therapists, etc. that are familiar with the drug and its scene should be embraced and let freely discover, for example, the affectionate effects the drugs has between two people or more.


The War on Drugs has already become an enormous humanitarian issue and people have to realize that repressive policies and draconian laws don't work against the spread of narcotics. Ecstasy, drugs in general, are here to stay and should therefore be handled in a way this conforms to the market. There's a demand. Period. Party organizers, DJs – heck even the security and local municipalities know that festival goers put their drugs in their underwear (or even plug them in) in order to sneak them on the festival grounds, putting themselves to a high risk of facing jail time when caught, but still do the out-most best to be able to get high.


Repressive policies do not work in a free society. The makers of these policies are too naive and thus the crack down on the possession and use of Ecstasy must therefore stop. Although legalizing these substances might sound to some people as an extreme thing to do, I think most of the people already are in favor of decriminalizing drug use. The next step is regulating drug production.  


Note from the author:

For those who don't take Ecstasy and think this doesn't concern them, please think again. The active substance of Ecstasy, MDMA, has been used to treat depressions and relationship problems and has recently been found successful in, again, treating depressions but also Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) there where other substances don't work (read: Many professionals in the field are not familiar with this since the illegal status of MDMA makes it difficult for researchers to study on. MDMA and Ecstasy cover more positive mental effects than meets the eye and should therefore be studied on extensively in order to get the most information possible that will save human lives and treat those who are in professional care.


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