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Cache - Gomemphis.com : The Commercial Appeal GoMemphis.com
Wed, Apr 4, 2001

Archived April 4, 2001 from http://www.gomemphis.com/newca/040301/3kids.htm

Toxic drugs billed as Ecstasy blamed in two teen deaths

ECSTASY DANGERS

The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health report that Ecstasy users can face:

Psychological difficulties including confusion, severe anxiety, depression and paranoia.

Physical symptoms including muscle tension, nausea, chills or sweating.

An increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which provide an even greater risk for people with circulatory and heart disease.

In addition, research links ecstasy to long-term damage to parts of the brain critical to thought and memory.

A bad batch of drugs being sold as Ecstasy has killed two teenagers who died Sunday and Monday, according to city police.

Police Director Walter Crews said the victims, a boy and a girl, both 17, died of some type of poisoning after taking what they believed to be the party drug Ecstasy. The two died in separate incidents.

Crews would not name the victims, but said one was an east Shelby County boy who died at Saint Francis Hospital early Monday.

The other was a girl from Corinth, Miss., who apparently purchased the drugs in Memphis and made it back to Corinth before being airlifted to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, where she died early Sunday.

"We're actively investigating these two deaths,'' Crews said. "Again, we think they were the result of these young people having bought and taken designer drugs that were poisonous to their system.''

Police said the two victims did not know each other and that the purchases were made separately, according to witnesses.

Witnesses have told police the victims thought they were using Ecstasy.

Deputy Chief R. G. Wright said there is a new drug similar to Ecstasy called PMA that has been linked to several deaths nationwide.

"I think it's important to remember that any of these designer drugs are actually homemade drugs,'' he said.

". . .The people cook them up at their homes or whatever, stamp the pills out and sell them on the street.

"So when you are buying you don't have any idea exactly what potency you're buying.''

Crews said police hope Ecstasy buyers will be wary they are "taking their life into their own hands.

"This is a very dangerous situation,'' he said. "We think we have some significant evidence that will lead us to the source.''

Crews would not say where or how the purchases took place. He said it is still under investigation.

"It's so fresh (the case) the lab reports haven't come back yet,'' he said.

But Crews said police are issuing the warning to protect the public.

"What we don't want to happen is when night falls in Memphis, Tennessee, this evening, young people in our city go out and purchase some of this compound and find themselves in the same state as these other two,'' he said.

Ecstasy is a popular party drug that emerged from the Rave dance culture and has now spread throughout the nightclub scene in Memphis, according to Asst. Dist. Atty. Gen. Bobby Carter, director of the West Tennessee Judicial Drug Task Force. Rave events are all-night dance parties.

Ecstasy is said to heighten one's sensitivities to the lights and sounds of the parties, as well as give the user a warm, euphoric feeling.

Carter said the drug, often found in tablet form with some image or logo stamped on it, is also called "X" or "rolls" on the street, where it can be purchased for $30 to $35 a tablet.

While the most common form of the drug is a pill or tablet, it is also available in powder and liquid forms. It often is taken with other illegal drugs or alcohol.

"I would call it a stimulant with hallucinogenic properties,'' Carter said. "We're seeing it more and more. It's making inroads into the powder cocaine market.''

Carter said new legislation that will take effect July 1 will increase the penalty for possessing 100 grams or more of the drug, which is considered possession with intent to distribute. The current penalty is 8 to 30 years; the new penalty will be 15 to 60 years, he said.

A report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy released two weeks ago said that use of Ecstasy is moving from raves and nightclubs to high schools, streets and places frequented by adolescents and young adults.

In addition, the popularity of the drug, traditionally used by Caucasians, has driven an increase in use by African-Americans and Hispanics, the report said.

Ecstasy use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders rose sharply between 1999 and 2000, the report said.

And more than 80 percent of communities surveyed nationwide reported an increase in availability of the drug in 2000.

-John Semien: 529-2551

-Michael Erskine: 529-5857