Life of the Party (LOTP) hosted a presentation to provide students with important health and safety information regarding the use of the drug MDMA (also known as “molly” or “ecstasy”). LOTP cooperated with the UCSB chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy to host this non-judgmental, anti-abstinence only, educational talk on drug use at Embarcadero Hall on Wed., Feb. 10.
“Harm reduction is the main goal,” Marjan Riazi, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program, said, “as we understand that students might use MDMA, we provide information for them to do so as safely as possible.”
The main lecturer at the event was Emanuel Sferios, founder of the public health organization DanceSafe. Sferios has dedicated his work to providing the public with proper knowledge of MDMA and its effects.
Rather than condemning the use of the drug altogether, Sferios’s presentation offered students a way to understand the drug and stop fatalities from improper use. “The fifteen deaths a year in the United States could easily be prevented,” he said.
LOTP’s purpose in hosting this event was to create an understanding of the drug’s effects in order to reduce the possible harm to students. A clear knowledge of MDMA and how the body reacts to it will enable students to use safely.
Sferios explained how the pharmacological effects of the intake of the chemical MDMA “results in a flood of serotonin in the brain.” Though this is the pleasure associated with the drug, it can be abused. The neurotoxicity develops from a depletion of serotonin as a result of the drug.
In addition, Sferios described the physiological effects on the body: “The major causes of fatalities while taking MDMA are hyperthermia, hypothermia and hyponatremia.”
MDMA lowers the body’s ability to regulate its immune system and internal body temperatures. As a result, extreme environments such as heat or cold will harm the body severely. Hyponatremia is the result of this inability for the body to control its system. A large intake of water won’t be able to move through the body, and nutrients won’t move through organs. “However, with proper consumption and awareness of the external environment, these damages can be prevented.” Sferios said.
“Stigma and shame isn’t the answer,” Sferios said. Since the DEA classifies MDMA as a Schedule I drug, the federal government considers it among the most dangerous illegal substances. This means there is a zero-tolerance policy in place that tends to perpetuate a lack of knowledge around the drug, stemming from an unnecessary taboo associated with it. Education, therefore, provides the chance for safer use.
“Education on drug use will enable policy to improve the country,” Cole Garcia, president of the UCSB chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said. The promotion of reputable, legal sources of MDMA could help eliminate unreliable, undercover sources.
The black-market supply of the drug can be dangerous, with unknown criminal sources producing most of the available drug. “Looking for profit, black-market chemists will combine cheaper, readily available chemicals into the pills,” Sferios said. “Most users don’t know what they’re taking when they use it.” For this reason, DanceSafe provides test kits to indicate whether or not the drug being taken has dangerous chemicals other than MDMA.
As different problems require different solutions, prohibition may not be the answer to preventing damage from MDMA. Just as Life of the Party and Students for Sensible Drug Policy provide information rather than judgement, increased knowledge will potentially lower the negative effects of using the drug.