Despite death and overdose, therapeutic Ecstasy shows promise

"This ecstasy doth unperplex / (We said) and tell us what we love." - John Donne

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Feldmár said that there is a significant difference between controlled, supervised use of MDMA with a therapist and the street drugs which recently caused a series of hospitalizations in Abbotsford. In those cases, he said, the drugs may have been cut (mixed) with other, more dangerous chemicals. Ingesting many tablets of any medicine – even Aspirin, he added – would be harmful to a user.
 
“Very few ecstasy tablets that have been tested are pure MDMA,” said Const. Ian MacDonald, with the Abbotsford Police Department. “They’re usually cut with other products, whether amphetamines or household cleaning products.
 
“Different chemicals are poured into process. It's not done under scrutiny of any corporation or Health Canada – it's done in people's basements. They're throwing in whatever junk they want. It's definitely a bit of a crapshoot.”
 
MacDonald said police were shocked when 17-year-old Cheryl McCormack died on December 17 in Abbotsford after having taken only “one or two” ecstasy tablets – allegedly in an attempt to lose weight with her friends. He said after the New Years hospitalization, the force decided to go public about the problem, issuing a press release warning of the dangers of MDMA use.
 
“When we first received word ... we had young high school-aged girls taking ecstasy tablets for weight loss, we all sat up and went, 'What?!' MacDonald told the Vancouver Observer. “We assume it's used more frequently as the party type of drug.
 
“But that was part of the reason we went out as strongly as we did. In a high school environment, with urban myths, you have to put it down quickly or you have others using and falling victim.”
 
With Lower Mainland hospitals reporting several ecstasy-related overdoses every week, the drug's use may be becoming more common. And though toxicology results from recent cases – as well as four deaths over the past month in Calgary – are not known, MacDonald said that whether deaths were caused by the quantity consumed or other chemicals mixed in is beside the point.
 
“People have asked me, “Is it a bad batch of illicit drugs?” he said. “My response is there's no such things as a good batch.
 
“Based on our recent experience, I don't like those odds. If you've got a one-in-four chance of taking something to go to the hospital – and two-thirds of those have died – I'm hoping that's enough of a message right there.”
 
The way Feldmár sees it, however, is that while there are dangers associated with abusing the street drug, MDMA itself is not the problem. He suggested that some recreational users are in fact self-prescribing it as medication for their mental health.
 
“Nobody's stupid,” he said. “It's a very frequently used medicine.
 
“People know that it has very positive effects, that's why they use it. I think what we're tyring to prove in a scientific way what everybody already knows. There has been an underground network of people already using it.”
 
Feldmár was featured in a Vancouver Observer news story which was carried worldwide in 2007, after he was permanently banned from entering the U.S. for publishing his own 1960s experiences with drugs in an academic journal.
 
U.S. Border guards discovered an thesis he had published in which he acknowledged having used psychoactive drugs decades prior. This year, he was issued a temporary visa to attend his son's wedding in the U.S, but that exemption expires this month.
 
“It's grossly unfair,” he said.

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