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A Warning: No Ecstasy in Dying
by Amy Pagnozzi
Aug 2, 2002
Originally published in the Hartford Courant
The word on the street was that it was "bad" Ecstasy that killed 16- year-old Makayla Korpinen - a pink tablet sold under the brand name "Molly."

Not so on both counts. The Ecstasy wasn't bad. To the contrary. Makayla ingested an extremely pure form of MDMA that hadn't been seen before on the streets - at least, not by the police.

And it wasn't a tablet, either. It was a powder, according to Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver II.

"There's still an ongoing police investigation as to where the hell this stuff came from," according to Carver.

Makayla didn't have a chance, said Carver. "She got hold of this non- tablet form and there was no way she could have any control of the dosage."

He likened the East Hampton teenager's death to the 1987 deaths of "four or five heroin junkies" who dropped dead in a single weekend.

That's when "P- ( short for Power ) Dope" first arrived on our streets and addicts mistakenly took their "usual" fix - not realizing the heroin dosage was 70 percent higher than normal. Due to privacy laws, Carver couldn't reveal the numerical quantity of Ecstasy detected in the blood sample screening taken when Makayla was admitted to Connecticut Children's Hospital in Hartford in May.

"But it was very, very, very high, even though many hours had passed" since Makalya - the first person in this state to die from Ecstasy alone - had taken the drug, according to Carver.

Of all the exams Carver's performed over the three or so years since Ecstasy started turning up in blood screenings, the volume in Makayla's was far and away the highest.

Little could be done for the teen during the three days she survived comatose. She was in "status epilepticus," according to Carver: basically, "continuous unbreakable seizures."

"It's a frightening thing to watch," he said. Whether the heart or the brain goes first, "the body ultimately dies of exhaustion."

Makayla's dreadful death casts a different light on the inhibition- eliminating "hug-drug" that many have always considered benign in its pure form.

Previous fatalities almost always involved other drugs sold as Ecstasy or real Ecstasy cut with, or in combination with, other substances.

But Ecstasy alone? Unheard of-until now.

Kids in particular see "E" as harmless.

More than half of eighth, 10th and 12th graders saw no "great risk" in using Ecstasy "once or twice," according to the most recent report on club drugs from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Nearly 10 percent of high school seniors queried in the agency's National Household Survey on Drug Abuse admitted to having taken it in the previous 12 months.

I've taken it, though many years have passed.

Having grown up ( or maybe not ) during the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test generation, I've always believed moderate drug use was not just benign but beneficial, particularly "mind-opening" hallucinogenics such as Ecstasy, LSD and mushrooms.

But moderate is not what I've observed, as camp mom of the neighborhood "safe house" for friends' teens in need of a place to crash-but too frightened to go directly home to their parents.

The standard dose of "E" is commonly held to be 120 milligrams. DEA analysis of seized pills shows a dosage ranging from 75-100 milligrams.

Whereas my friends' kids?

I grill them and learn they've dropped three or four tabs ( whatever they've got the cash for ) over 12 hours of dancing. Sometime it's combined with acid - so-called "baby acid," which is supposedly less potent.

Having come down from the high, it is not unusual for them to feel jittery, flaky, and tired - generally lousy - at which point weed, booze and/or tranquilizers may be applied in order to "chill" ( but not at my house ).

The Big Chill - that's what I'm frightened of in the wake of Makayla's death. Not just for "my" kids but this entire generation.

I mean, Drug Safe does a great job, going to raves, testing kids' Ecstasy tablets for adulterants. So do websites such as the Lycaeum and the Vaults of Erowid, which provide honest information rather than scare tactics.

"Minimize use to minimize harm," advises Erowid on Ecstasy. "Keeping use to less than once every 4-6 weeks can help reduce both tolerance and chances of long-term impact."

As for dosage: "If you have taken an ordinary dose of MDMA ( say 2 mg/kg ), you like where you are at about T+1:30...and would like to prolong your stay there, take a supplement equal to about 1/3 to 1/2 the initial dose."

Oh, yeah. I'm sure my young buds have got those gram scales in their pockets, right next to their Day-Glo sticks and lollipops.

"The whole problem with illicit drugs is you never have any assurance as to what the quality and the concentration is. That way lies perdition," says Carver.

Or as Erowid puts it, the more you over-indulge, the likelier you are to "induce or increase unwanted side effects without providing additional benefits."

Given the haphazard purity of drugs today, I can think of one way to ensure additional benefits:

Buy life insurance.