Drug Policy

Ecstasy Causes a Flashback at the L.A. Times


Nostalgic for the Clinton administration? Take a walk down memory lane by reading a classic Ecstasy scare story from the Los Angeles Times, headlined "Death at Electric Daisy Carnival Draws Attention to Connection Between Raves and Ecstasy." According to the subhead, "Officials, doctors and participants acknowledge that Ecstasy use is increasing and particularly widespread during events such as raves." A few excerpts:

The connection between drug use and raves—massive dance parties that feature electronic music and sometimes last 12 hours—is well-documented. Some who attend consider the use of Ecstasy integral to the experience….

Ecstasy is an illegal synthetic drug that law enforcement officials say is most often manufactured in foreign countries and smuggled into the United States. Although many users believe the drug is a safe alternative to more dangerous illicit drugs, Ecstasy can be deadly and cause lasting side effects, medical experts said.

Extreme thirst can be caused by Ecstasy use, said Dr. Marc Futernick, medical director of emergency services at California Hospital Medical Center. In response, a person may drink enough water to lower sodium levels so severely as to hamper the ability of neurons—nerve fibers in the brain and throughout the body—to transmit impulses that keep the body breathing and the brain thinking. As a result, a person may fall into a coma or have seizures.

"It's as if you turned the electricity off," Futernick said….

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has tracked an increase in methamphetamine being added to Ecstasy; and more recently, other types of chemicals, such as ketamine, primarily used as a horse tranquilizer, said DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen.

Similar to adrenaline, amphetamines can increase a user's heart rate so much that the heart fails. It can also cause body temperature to rise to 109 degrees—precipitating what Futernick compared to organs melting.

Scary stuff. But the really frightening thing about the story, in terms of what it says about the perennial eagerness of newspaper reporters to serve as prohibitionist propagandists, is that it appeared on Monday. Although national data indicate that Ecstasy use has been falling or flat since 2001, the Times claims it is on the rise in Los Angeles County:

In 2005, 4.5 of every 10,000 people entering treatment for substance abuse in Los Angeles County said Ecstasy was their primary drug of choice. By 2009, it was 33.6—more than seven times as many.

That's right: The prevalence of Ecstasy use among people entering treatment increased nearly 650 percent over five years, from 0.045 percent to 0.336 percent. It's an epidemic!

Still, if seizures, melting organs, and addiction were common among the millions of people who use Ecstasy each year, the drug's popularity among the kids today with their raves and their techno music would be hard to fathom. Notably, the two main hazards the article ties to Ecstasy use—unknown additives and excessive water consumption—are created or compounded by prohibition, which makes drug quality unreliable and impedes a culture of responsible use. Toward the end of the article, the Times implicitly acknowledges that safety depends on context:

Dr. Karen Miotto, a clinical psychiatry professor at UCLA and medical director of the UCLA Alcoholism Addiction Medical Service, said other events, such as the annual Burning Man held in the Nevada desert, have developed an organic, communal safety culture, where hundreds of people volunteer to provide medical services.

But at massive raves, Miotto said, the same community of volunteers promoting safety cannot be found.

"Everyone is doing it," Miotto said. "It's very available and acceptable in that context, because there's no grownups. This scale of young, vulnerable people is just a setup for drug dealers peddling marginal, bad, unsafe drugs."??

I reflected on an earlier Ecstasy panic in a 2002 Reason article. In a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece, I warned that Joe Biden's anti-rave legislation would only compound the dangers associated with underground use of black-market drugs. That same year, Ron Bailey highlighted the scientific errors that led to headlines about the alleged connection between Ecstasy and brain damage.

[Thanks to Max Minkoff for the tip.]

NEXT: Global Temperature Trend Update - July, 2010

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Everyone is doing it,” Miotto said. “It’s very available and acceptable in that context, because there’s no grownups.

    Do we really have an epidemic of 12 year olds going to raves? Or are you just not a grownup if your not as old as the good doctor or do something she disapproves of?

  2. I’m sure nobody drinking a lot of fluids at raves or experiencing heat stroke is doing that as a result of dancing around like a maniac in unventilated warehouses in the summertime.

  3. MDMA is an amphetamine.

    “A dangerous rise in the incidents of coffee being spiked with espresso.”

  4. Raves? Seriously? What next, an article about this hep new “Burning Man” festival?

  5. The worst symptom of Ecstasy is that is makes you dance like a prick.

    1. So? Swaying back and forth in a stiff upright manner? Or side to side in an abrupt slapping manner?

    2. Hence, why Ali G is a junglist and not a candy kid hanging out in the trance rooms with the AZNs.

      I’ve been to a few raves in my day. Most of the kids at them end up becoming dentists, doctors, lawyers, etc.

      1. hmm, I actually ended up as a CPA

        1. That’s okay. I hear they are working on a cure for that.

    3. Back in the 70’s there was a government run scare concerning PCB due to the fact that PCB turns you into the Fonz.

      The personality altering effects of ecstasy are the exact opposite. You become a a big wet noodle, a flake even.

      1. PCP of course, I don’t think the government has caught on to the mind altering effects of snorting polychlorinated biphenyl yet.

      2. Yeah, E turns you into a really retarded flower child parody.

      3. Yeah, E turns you into a really retarded flower child parody.

  6. This post needs a lot more.

    MMMtssMMMtssMMMtssSSMMMtss *loop*

    1. My uhn tiss uhn tiss uhn tiss

    2. I fear this thread will never have enough MMMtss.


      1. I couldn’t find MMMtss, so I got the next best thing for you: MMMBop. :-p

  7. Ecstasy use has been falling or flat since 2001

    Coincidentally, that’s when the good, organ-melting seizure kind became almost impossible to find, because, unrelated to anything else in the news, Mexicans flooded the market with the “pink meth” kind.

    1. I’m actually a big fan of X mixed with meth. I prefer those over the heroin ones.

      1. Nice list of more reasons not to use X. Look at the kind of shit it gets cut with…

  8. Ecstasy causes God to masturbate with dead kittens.

    1. With as in using dead kittens or alongside?

      1. Alongside, and then climaxing into, a small box of them.

  9. I drink a lot of water cause of my kidney stones. Neurons not firing…uh, Fresno Dan is kinda slow.

  10. Real pure MDMA is safe and fun if used responibly. it is the mdpv piperines and meth that has been cut into the X pills that have the worst effects. pure clean cryastal mdma is almost as safe as aleve if not taken too much of and not abused

    1. It burns off the synapses of your serotonin neurons.

  11. Newsreaderette: Wow. That’s a troubling report, Ron.

    Newsreader: It sure is, Susie. Next on Action News at 11?: you’ve heard of the internet. What if you could take it with you – in your phone?

    Newsreaderette: And Jenny Helton with an update on reported incidents of sudden acceleration in Audi 5000’s.

    Voiceover: Action News at 11?. Brought to you by Enron: Powering America’s Future. And by Oldsmobile – “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile”.

    1. No Ovaltine?

  12. The MSM, endulging in misrepresentation and exaggeration?

    I . . . am . . . shocked!

    1. Its stupid even for them though. All the problems they mention are transparently due to other chemicals, e.g. dihydrogen monoxide overdosage.

  13. the perennial eagerness of newspaper reporters to serve as prohibitionist propagandists

    Does anyone still doubt that the press is nearly as culpable as the government in the unrelenting shredding of our freedoms?

  14. Ze Germans and Spain have just kicked off.

    1. And the security stewards have drawn a yellow card for tackling a streaker rashly. The streaker, naturally, was sent off.

    2. Villa forces a save from Neuer.

    3. I want ze Germans to win so that the World Cup Finals can be subtitled: The REVENGE OF ANNE FRANK!

    4. Ze Germans force a save out of Casillas and get a corner.

    5. Germany are denied what sounds like a legit penalty in stoppage time.

      1. Upon review, it was a definite penalty according to the radio guys. Spain had the better of the half, though.

        1. Maybe the Germans were on E last night… I haven’t seen them this sloppy in weeks.

    6. 2nd half has begun.

    7. Xabi Alonso with a good chance, but wide.

    8. Boateng subbed out for Jansen.

    9. HUGE save from Neuer, and Germany escapes a flurry.

    10. Klose misses high. Still, shots are something like 12-3 in favor of Spain.

      I think ze Germans may have hit their wall.

    11. Sergio Ramos kinda-sorta dives in the box, but the referee isn’t fooled.

      1. WE Americans dont give a Flying F! about your football!

        1. You seem to be under the impression that I am not American. Strange that my passport says otherwise.

    12. Klose forces a huge save from Casillas. Things may be turning a bit.

      1. Kroos, rather.

    13. Puyol has scored from a corner. 74th minute.

    14. Germany almost bitten on the break in the 82nd.

    15. The Germans have gone out with a whimper. Disappointing.

    16. So now the two best teams to never win the Cup will meet in the final.

      Hup Holland Hup!

      1. Go Orange!

  15. aww the days of e. it’s harder to come by it. i personally think it’s hangover effect is as bad as meth, so i don’t recommend it.

    1. I totally disagree. You can usually go to sleep the next day off of E, but meth would usually keep me up for much longer.

      Sides that, I really don’t think any other drug can compare to good E. Although some really nice liquid acid comes close.

  16. One of the things this kinda story shows is that there’s not much of an underground anymore.

    There was still an underground before the first ecstasy panics in ’80s. These panics often happen when the mainstream finds out about a subculture.

    It goes back to The Beats at least, probably farther back than that I’m sure. The opium dens and “white slavery” rings of the 19th century were probably made of the same stuff.

    Oh we got trouble,
    right here in River City,
    with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “E”,
    and that stands for Ecstasy!

    Now that they’re preinstalling the interwebs on the computers, the underground is available to everyone from the comfort of their dingy dorm room.

    The underground ain’t what it used to be, so I guess they gotta recycle the old stuff. I mean, people who are reading paper media are pretty much on the geriatric periphery anyway, right? Who knows, maybe this is the first time Grandma’s heard about raves?

    Must be sad for an LA Times reporter to have to write about stuff that happened 20 years ago for an audience like that.

    1. Who knows, maybe this is the first time Grandma’s heard about raves?

      Or she forgot about the last epidemic-panic in the interim.

    2. My grandmother WENT to raves. Shit is older than dirt.

  17. In response, a person may drink enough water to lower sodium levels so severely as to hamper the ability of neurons?nerve fibers in the brain and throughout the body?to transmit impulses that keep the body breathing and the brain thinking. As a result, a person may fall into a coma or have seizures

    Clearly this “water” is a dangerous drug that must be banned immediately, and its sellers, transporters and peddlers locked in for 20-to-life. Will someone please think of the children?

    1. DHMO is probably the most dangerous substance on Earth in terms of raw deaths caused.

    2. All those refreshing and fun looking bottles, and not a surgeon general’s warning in sight. Despicable, the way they market dihydrogen monoxide to our youth.

  18. I have tried Ecstasy a few times, but having taken a few neurobiology classes I am now aware the X is in fact one of the MORE (not less) neurologically harmful drugs out there.

    Also, the come down generally sucks balls so hard that I have no desire to ever try it again.

    Not that I’m saying it should be illegal, but it’s fucking stupid to regard it as a harmless party drug. It does at least as much cognitive damage as meth.

  19. Seriously raves went from something fun to do to something dangerous now its just becoming a Fad… Before when most ppl at these thing where no more than 50K to 180K omg… Oh The drugs is a personal choice everybody knows what there doing No others to blame

  20. perhaps some of the propogandists have over some inaccuracies in their view of X but the facts is that a few uses and serantonin in the brain is deleted and it takes seven years for new seratonin manufacture in the brain. X may or may not be a gateway to addiction but it does in fact lead to depression – you can deny if you want but if you are honest you will likely even see that development in your self. X feels great but it its crash is indidious.

  21. We are top suppliers Marijuana, pain pills, sex pills and anxiety meds available (we have meds like xanax, tramadol, percs, oxy, roxy, valium, actavis syrup, etc… +1 (724) 470-0553. Call: +1 (419) 299-6124
    Email Us Via : discreetsales2015(@)gmail.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.