Lethal ignorance

The ‘E’ market

THE HYSTERIA generated by the unfortunate death of Leah Betts, who died from an extreme allergic reaction after taking an Ecstasy tablet, has seen a truly nauseating outpouring of hypocrisy and prejudice.

Some people still think that the 1960s represented the height of hedonistic drug-taking, and that we have gradually become more ‘sensible’ over the years. Wrong. Home Office figures suggest that about 1.5 million Ecstasy tablets are swallowed every week by up to a million young people. Ecstasy is the third most popular drug in Britain, behind cannabis and amphetamines, so you can see that this amounts to an orgy of mass law-breaking! Let us face it: for good or for bad, Ecstasy-driven rave culture is as British as fish and chips.

When you consider that only a handful of people die each year from taking Ecstasy, mainly from chronic dehydration brought about by mercenary night club owners who refuse to supply free water, we can see that it is a relatively harmless drug. In fact, the number of deaths from all illegaldrugs is only around 250 a year; whereas smoking-related diseases kill 700,000 and alcohol-related deaths run at 25,000.

A rational debate would reveal that Ecstasy, like virtually all other drugs, has a ‘respectable’ background. Ecstasy is methylene-dioxy-methyl-amphetamine (MDMA), and was in fact invented by a German pharmaceutical company in 1912 and sold as a slimming aid. It resurfaced in the 1970s in the US, used by psychotherapists as an anti-depressant and libido enhancer. Interestingly, it was also tested by the US army as a means of disorientating enemy troops. The drug was only ‘officially’ banned in 1985, after it gained wide circulation among students.

There is no doubt that Ecstasy has some side-effects, which can be very unpleasant. However, because of its illegal status, there has been no effective scientific research into this area. Quite logical though. If the government believes it can beat a problem by simply banning a drug, it will not invest in researching the medical effects of that drug on its users. Some scientists who have tried to investigate this area have been accused of conniving at law-breaking.

This is the real crime. Those who support criminalising drugs and its users are quite prepared to see young people die needlessly, in order to secure the ‘moral’ high ground - and votes, of course.

Communists stress that it is not the drugs, as such, which are lethal, but that the ignorance surrounding them certainly can be.

Eddie Ford