Ecstasy, molly, MDMA — all names for a drug present at many parties or raves. It goes without saying that these drugs are illegal, although their use is still rampant. Associated Students Off-Campus Senator Patrick Dohoney has started a program to give out free test kits to students in the University of California, Santa Barbara community. Test kits allow users to see what’s in the drugs they’ve obtained before they use them.
Dohoney, a second year psychology major, acknowledged the common use of MDMA among students and said he hopes to increase drug safety through their kits. He pushed to create the test kits program with the help of UCSB’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
“Me and a group of students, who are a part of SSDP, wanted to find a way to reduce the amount of drug-related emergencies,” Dohoney said. “When people intend to take molly, it is often cut with other drugs, like amphetamines or bath salts. We wanted to make sure that if students decided to use drugs, the could do it in the safest, most responsible way possible.”
The program works like this: there are approximately 30 test kits available on a loan basis. Anyone who is interested is asked to send an email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment. The person will then be given a location and a time to pick up the test kit. Students need to exchange their access card for the kit to ensure that the kit is later returned. They may then take it back to their residence and test there. The service is confidential.
SSDP is actively working to bring attention to the kits, said Julan Prasad, a second year physics major who is helping to lead UCSB’s SSDP chapter.
“What motivated us to do it was that last year at Extravaganza, and just throughout my time at Isla Vista, I found out that we have a really big problem with dirty molly,” Prasad said. He said the issue has not been addressed. “You have people having to deal with sketchy people, with cartels and drug dealers in order to have a good time. We are trying to stay safe about it,” Prasad said.
Dohoney and SSDP hope to make the program more accessible, with the aim of eventually offering the test kits at the Pardall Center. They said they hope to work with Gaucho FYI and the Alcohol and Drug Program to make its existence better known around the community.
One anonymous user of MDMA supported the decision to offer free test kits.
“In my opinion, offering students drug MDMA testing kits is a great idea,” the user said. “It’s important to acknowledge that drug use is always present and that the safety of students should be the number one priority. Drug test kits allow for students to drastically reduce their odds of overdosing due to an unknown substance being in the drug.”
The legality of test kits has been a subject of discussion, making programs like these controversial. Dohoney and Prasad share a different opinion.
“It is the best way to reduce harm when students use drugs,” Dohoney said. It is very naive to deny the fact that there are students on this campus that are doing hard drugs.”
“Our having test kids isn’t making anyone do more drugs,” Prasad agreed. “It is just making them feel safer about it, and hopefully be safer.”
Dohoney said he hoped people would take advantage of the program.
“I want to let everyone know that if you do use these drugs, please use this service,” he said. “You are always taking a risk when you take substances. This is a free and confidential program that ensures you know what you are consuming.”