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To: socal-raves
Subject: Ecstasy and Death
Date: Monday, September 25, 1995 11:20AM

    My son, Morgan Jones, then a sophomore at UC Santa Cruz, died
from the effects of Ecstasy (MDMA, MethyleneDioxyMethAmphethamine)
on April 1, 1995.  He had gone to a rave in San Francisco at which
he bought and ingested two Ecstasy tables (about half an hour apart),
at about 4:30 a.m.  He began to feel sick at the rave, and then
returned to the house of a friend in Marin County.  He lost
consciousness about 9:00 a.m. and was pronounced dead at Marin
General Hospital at about 11:00 a.m.

    There are lessons to be learned from his death.

    You can die from a relatively low dose of Ecstasy.  There were
two autopsies performed on Morgan, one by the Marin County Coroner,
and one by a private pathologist.  The Marin County Coroner attributed
Morgan's death to "cardiac dysrhythmia due to idiosyncratic drug
reaction." The blood test commissioned by the Coroner found that
there were 0.56 milligrams per liter of amphetamines in Morgan's blood,
of which almost all (0.54 MG/L) was MDA and a very small amount
(0.02 MG/L) was MDMA. The private pathologist attributed Morgan's
death to "acute MDMA and alcohol intoxication." The blood test he
commissioned found .58 MG/L of amphetamines, all judged to be MDMA,
and .05 (units not given) of alcohol.  The blood test commissioned
by the Coroner found no alcohol.

    There is a great deal of variation among individuals in the
level at which MDMA becomes toxic.  Steven B. Karch, in "The
Pathology of Drug Abuse," (CRC Press, 1993, p. 211) reports that
"There appears to be tremendous overlap between recreational and
toxic levels.  In seven patients who died of MDMA toxicity, blood
levels ranged from from 110 ng/mL (.110 mg/L) to 1260 ng/mL (1.26 mg/L).
Levels in five patients who survived serious bouts of toxicity were
from 200 to 970 ng (from .200 to .970 mg/L), while levels in five
car-accident victims were from 50 to 340 ng/mL (.05 to .34 mg/L)."
So one person's recreational dose can another's fatal dose.  There
is no way to find your own limit except to die.

    MDMA has adverse side effects short of death.  The full extent
of these is not yet known.  The San Jose Mercury News reported on
Sept. 5 that "U.S. researchers have found new evidence that the
rave-scene drug 'Ecstasy' could cause permanent brain damage
leading to mood disturbances, a report in the New Scientist
magazine said Thursday.  A team of scientists at Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore, led by George Ricaurte, found that monkey
and rat cells damaged by Ecstasy regrow abnormally."

    You cannot and must not depend on biased information sites,
such as the Web site at hyperreal.com (http://hyperreal.com/
drugs/mdma/) for information about the risks of MDMA or of
other drugs.  The hyperreal.com site carries an incomplete
and unrepresentative set of scholarly (medical and pharmaceutical)
articles on MDMA and other drugs.  It does not carry, for
example, Steven Karch's book cited above.  My son had had a
prior bad experience with MDMA and was apparently worried
about it.  He sought information which from which he could
decide whether to continue to take MDMA. He read the articles
at hyperreal.com and other Web sites (I have a record of the Web
sites he logged in to) and from them got a false sense of security
about his continued use of MDMA.

    You should beware of immoderate or overly enthusiastic
claims for the benefits of drugs, and you should be particularly
skeptical of the claims of the MDMA promoters.  The most venal
of the latter, such as Fraser Clark, Bruce Eisner and Nicholas
Saunders seem to be keeping a low profile recently, but they or
their ilk will return.  Ask what any proponent of MDMA stands
to gain from his or her advocacy.

    You should try to be sophisticated and mature in looking
for the signs of addiction or dependence in yourselves and in
your friends.  One such sign, which I have seen far too much
of in the sfraves group, is an unwillingness to accept evidence
about the risks of drugs.  Morgan subscribed to sfraves,
and when his mother and I went down to Santa Cruz to pick
up his effects we found that there was waiting on his e-mail
account a truly nauseating collection of e-mails about his own
death.  Their gist was either that the news was false, or that
his death must have been an aberration due to some carelessness
on his part.  It was neither.  He did die.  He was no more care-
less than tens of thousands of other young people who take MDMA
regularly.  He just died.  The drug killed him.

    Interest groups such as the rave group can become clannish
and self-congratulatory.  When that happens misinformation
is amplified and perpetuated.  Seek advice and guidance from
people outside of your own group.  Get some feedback about what
you are up to.  There are lots of old hippies around, many with
their own interesting drug experiences from the 60s, who could tell
you a thing or two.  Speak to your professor, physician or minister.
Reach out and check things out.

    I am 51 years old.  I think that my generation has not done
well in teaching the next generation about drugs.  I think the
problem is that we are so worried about the dangers of drugs
that we speak untruthfully about the attractions of drugs.
We talk about drugs as if they were sinister, and as if whatever
attraction they had was inconsequential or flawed or unreal
or unimportant.  From my own personal experience with drugs
(alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, caffeine) it seems to me that the
truth is very different.  The appeal of drugs is not trivial,
sinister or insubstantial.  It is the exact opposite.  The
nicotine addict, for example, feels more centered, more true
to himself or herself, more like the real person, when smoking than
when not.  I am sure that this sort of feeling is true of many
other drugs:  you feel more spiritual with the drug than without;
you feel that you have found something about your deep inner
self that you previously did not know.

   The main message at the hyperreal MDMA site
(http://hyperreal.com/drugs/mdma/), attributed to Brett
(phase@grove.ufl.edu) describes this kind of attraction very well:

   "Ecstasy is not a 'happy drug'.  It by itself does not do anything.
    That 00 gelatin capsule you bought from this guy your good friend
    knows... with bitter crystalline power in the bottom of it... does
    not contain any warmth, joy, wisdom, or experience. It contains
    a salt of millions of rather simple organic molecules.  All
    identical.  The ecstasy and joy come from within YOU.  That is
    your natural, instinctive consciousness when you aren't
    poisoning yourself with fears, hangups, and stress.  It is a
    glimpse of the true empathy, calm wisdom and energy you possess
    when you are living HERE, and NOW... not based on the past,
    future and fear.  MDMA is a chemical key to the paradise within
    each of us."

    I have not taken Ecstasy but from what I have read, including
a short story by Morgan, I don't doubt for a minute that Brett's
statement is accurate.

    When young people discover for the first time this sort of
appeal in a recreational drug they feel that they have been tricked
by their elders: the drug seems to have opened a door into a spiritual
world, and no one told them this could be true!  Their elders are
hypocritical to have hidden this.

    What I wish is that my generation could teach not how bad
drugs are but how GOOD they are; i.e., how deeply appealing they
are.  So that no young person would be surprised to find this out
for himself or herself from personal experience.  The truth will set
you free.  And the truth about drugs is that they are to be avoided
not because they are sinister, but because their attractions come
with truly awful risks of death, injury, disability or other
permanent suffering.

    I wish for each of you what is within your grasp: the chance
for a long and productive and spiritually fulfilling life.  I hope
that you will take some extra effort to be sure that you come to a
well-informed, considerate and personal evaluation of just how (or
whether) recreational drugs should fit into this life.

Peter R. Jones
peter@island.com

Sept. 25, 1995

=============================================================================

From: bt22@cityscape.co.uk
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 1995 11:09:44 +0000

Thanks, I did get a copy and the full medical report, and this was my reply:

Thanks for forwarding the report on the tragic death of Morgan Jones due to
MDMA. My immediate reaction is to feel for his father Peter and awful that,
as he says, I may have contributed to the death of his son by providing
false security when he visited my site.

However, I do stand by my conclusion about the relative safety of MDMA, and
in researching my new book I have again looked at the the risks using wider
data but reached similar conclusions: that everything you do is risky, but
that taken sensibly and in moderation by healthy people, the risks of
taking MDMA are no more than many other accepted forms of recreation, and
are probably less than alcohol use.

The point is that if MDMA were eliminated, potential users would not stay
at home safely watching TV: they would be doing something else and that may
well carry a similar risk. This may not apply to Morgan, so that his life
may have been saved, and will be no consolation to Peter, his mother
Katherine or anyone else connected with this or any other personal tragedy
of those who have died through taking MDMA. It may be cold hearted, but
statistical risk is more relevant to sensible decision making than
closeness to a personal tragedy.

In fact Morgan's death was one of the extremely rare cases of death due to
MDMA which appaently did not involve overheating. The great majority of
Ecstasy deaths here in Britain could have been avoided by drinking enough
water and 'chilling out'. Some authorities such as Manchester accept that
they have failed to prevent illicit drug use through education and police
efforts, so they have diverted 50% of their resources towards preventing
damage to those who use drugs in venues. To obtain licenses, venues must
provide free drinking water, be adequately ventilated, have quiet cool
rooms available and have staff trained to recognise symptoms of drug
related problems who are able to give appropriate treatment.

Nicholas Saunders

======================================================================

From: Lamont Granquist 

[ Note added in editing:  This was forwarded to one of the *raves mailing
  lists, and not sent directly to Peter Jones.  It's a critique of the
  factual data presented, and I didn't pull any punches...]

>     There is a great deal of variation among individuals in the
> level at which MDMA becomes toxic.  Steven B. Karch, in "The
> Pathology of Drug Abuse," (CRC Press, 1993, p. 211) reports that
> "There appears to be tremendous overlap between recreational and
> toxic levels.  In seven patients who died of MDMA toxicity, blood
> levels ranged from from 110 ng/mL (.110 mg/L) to 1260 ng/mL (1.26 mg/L).
> Levels in five patients who survived serious bouts of toxicity were
> from 200 to 970 ng (from .200 to .970 mg/L), while levels in five
> car-accident victims were from 50 to 340 ng/mL (.05 to .34 mg/L)."
> So one person's recreational dose can another's fatal dose.  There
> is no way to find your own limit except to die.

This is no less biased than any of the information on hyperreal.com. 

The vast majority of individuals can take 100-200 mg of MDMA and not
have any problems.  One admitted problem with MDMA is that individuals
with pre-existing cardiac disorders can have fatal reactions to 
MDMA.  This is expected due to the cardiac load that MDMA places on
the heart.  To minimize risk people should have checkups prior to
using MDMA.  And I'm particularly concerned about (primarily females)
suffering from past or present anorexia which can cause bradycardia
which could be exacerbated by MDMA.  But there's no way of eliminating
the risk entirely.

On the other hand, such a problem could occur skydiving or playing
tennis.

>     MDMA has adverse side effects short of death.  The full extent
> of these is not yet known.  The San Jose Mercury News reported on
> Sept. 5 that "U.S. researchers have found new evidence that the
> rave-scene drug 'Ecstasy' could cause permanent brain damage
> leading to mood disturbances, a report in the New Scientist
> magazine said Thursday.  A team of scientists at Johns Hopkins
> University in Baltimore, led by George Ricaurte, found that monkey
> and rat cells damaged by Ecstasy regrow abnormally."

That was not new evidence.  Ricuarte had previously reported that
monkeys given 5 mg/kg x 2/day x 4 days of MDMA had abormal 5-HT and
5-HIAA levels long after taking MDMA.  This study just provided
immunohistochemical evidence that corroborated the previous neurochemical
evidence.  The utility of extrapolating these kinds of doses of MDMA
to human use is far from clear.  Based on the human studies, I seriously
doubt that MDMA is a human neurotoxin (see my article at
http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v5n3/neurmdma.html).  And while George
doesn't agree with me, at least he respects my opinion on the matter --
this is far from a settled issue.

>     You cannot and must not depend on biased information sites,
> such as the Web site at hyperreal.com (http://hyperreal.com/
> drugs/mdma/) for information about the risks of MDMA or of
> other drugs.  The hyperreal.com site carries an incomplete
> and unrepresentative set of scholarly (medical and pharmaceutical)
> articles on MDMA and other drugs.  It does not carry, for
> example, Steven Karch's book cited above.  My son had had a
> prior bad experience with MDMA and was apparently worried
> about it.  He sought information which from which he could
> decide whether to continue to take MDMA. He read the articles
> at hyperreal.com and other Web sites (I have a record of the Web
> sites he logged in to) and from them got a false sense of security
> about his continued use of MDMA.

And you've failed to mention anything about the beneficial 
psychotherapeutic uses of MDMA.  You apparently haven't read
_Through the Gateway of the Heart_, or the reports in the
literature.  While there isn't any controlled clinical studies
that have been done with MDMA (due to the obvious problem with its
schedule I status), there is compelling anecdotal evidence that it
is effictatious.  You're at least as biased as we are.

>     You should beware of immoderate or overly enthusiastic
> claims for the benefits of drugs, and you should be particularly
> skeptical of the claims of the MDMA promoters.  The most venal
> of the latter, such as Fraser Clark, Bruce Eisner and Nicholas
> Saunders seem to be keeping a low profile recently, but they or
> their ilk will return.  Ask what any proponent of MDMA stands
> to gain from his or her advocacy.

You shoud also beware of statements by those who have, unfortunately,
been harmed by drugs.  They have a tendency to overgeneralize their
experience at belideve that everyone suffers the same level of harm.

>     You should try to be sophisticated and mature in looking
> for the signs of addiction or dependence in yourselves and in
> your friends.  One such sign, which I have seen far too much
> of in the sfraves group, is an unwillingness to accept evidence
> about the risks of drugs.  Morgan subscribed to sfraves,
> and when his mother and I went down to Santa Cruz to pick
> up his effects we found that there was waiting on his e-mail
> account a truly nauseating collection of e-mails about his own
> death.  Their gist was either that the news was false, or that
> his death must have been an aberration due to some carelessness
> on his part.  It was neither.  He did die.  He was no more care-
> less than tens of thousands of other young people who take MDMA
> regularly.  He just died.  The drug killed him.

He died of an irregular heartbeat.  If he'd been playing tennis at
the time, would you be so quick to blame tennis for the problem or
would you accept it?