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E for Ecstasy
by Nicholas Saunders

[ Chapter 13 ] [ Index ] [ Appendix 1 ]

Chapter 14: Conclusion There are several very different uses of Ecstasy: spiritual enlightenment, psychotherapy, use in rituals and artistic expression, empathy with others and for fun. The effects of the drug sometimes appear contradictory when described by different categories of users. This is because the drug does not produce any given effect, but rather allows the user to go further in their own direction. It does this by its unique but subtle combination of effects: dissolving fear, while simultaneously relaxing and stimulating. I have always thought that ritual, religious experience and group elation were valuable experiences missing from our sterile society, and I can believe that raves fill the void. They provide a taste of a richness lacking in normal life.(122)

Ecstasy and its effects are an important part of life for a large proportion of people in Britain, and increasingly other parts of the world, today. The establishment and the media have responded by trying to prevent Ecstasy use by means of scare stories and heavy legal penalties, with very little attempt to understand the attraction of the drug or to provide genuine help and information. This has had the result of making Ecstasy users lose respect for the media. There is a need for the media to report honestly about illicit drug use, and this requires telling the whole truth. There is no justification that I can see for the law preventing willing, informed adults from consuming whatever they want to. However, even those against legalization should support the reclassification of MDMA. The law gives the wrong message by including MDMA among the most dangerous drugs, discrediting the Class A category. Once having taken MDMA and found it to be fun and not harmful, users are more likely to go on to try other Class A drugs such as crack cocaine. The law should be changed to put MDMA in the same category as cannabis.

There has been a disgraceful disregard of human life on the part of the media and authorities who have been using rave deaths as ammunition for the scare campaign against Ecstasy rather than informing users how to take steps to prevent overheating. Manchester's lead in harm reduction policies should be welcomed enthusiastically and similar policies should be adopted throughout Britain without delay.

The police should change their tactics. Instead of trying to prevent people using the Ecstasy by arresting users and user-dealers, they should concentrate on eliminating violent criminals and protecting ravers from exploitation. They should not tolerate the organised gangs who operate at raves and clubs. These are liable to use violence and are obviously much tougher to deal with than user-dealers, but for this very reason they should be eliminated. The police should also help implement harm prevention in areas where such policies have been made law.

MDMA appears to have great potential for use in psychotherapy, but this requires further exploration. As a signatory to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, the government should act on the Expert Committee's recommendation to facilitate research into the therapeutic use of MDMA.