The use and legislation of drugs like MDMA is incredibly complex. While ecstacy is statistically less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes, it is categorised as a Class A drug. Criticism of this policy within government has been highly unpopular; when Professor David Nutt pointed out that statistically horse-riding is more dangerous a hobby than using MDMA, he was fired. However, the use of ‘party drugs’ can have long-term effects on a person’s mental health, and can cause total organ failure in cases of overdose.
I won’t pretend to know what the best course of legislative action is, but it’s evident that successive UK governments have refused to listen to the opposing arguments. Ecstasy exploded onto the club scene in the 1990s, and is the second most popular illegal drug amongst 16-24 year olds. However, the number of ecstasy related fatalities remains very low. Frequent (more than once a month) use has fallen in recent years. In 2003/04, the proportion of ecstasy users who were frequent drug takers was 20.2%. This has decreased to 7.0% in a 2015/16 survey, with most users only taking the drug once or twice a year (source: DrugWise). This information seriously calls into question why MDMA is classified by the government on an equal level to heroin.
Legislation also makes safe usage much more difficult, as the government chooses not to support initiatives to make drug usage safer. The strength of MDMA is very easy to test, but testing kits are not made readily available to users. Nightclub staff could be trained to help identify cases of overdose, and distribute bottled water and testing kits. These methods have been very effective at festivals, but are not supported by the police and government as it is seen as condoning drug use.
There is also the question of whether people should have the right to make that choice for themselves. People know that smoking causes lung cancer, but they still choose to smoke. People know that drinking causes cirrhosis of the liver, but they still choose to drink to excess. Why should the government legislate with such vitriol against any activity which consenting adults partake in without harming others?
Some choices are good, some are bad. Refusing to discuss or evaluate all the options is almost always a bad choice. We vote for leaders to make considered and careful choices, not to bury their heads in the sand. With so many courses of action being ignored, it is clear that those who die as a result of ecstasy are not dying because of greedy dealers or super-strength botched batches, as further casualties of the war on drugs.
Featured image: [Pikrepo]
Last modified: 27th July 2020