(Eng)Extracts from FREEDOM (3) Ecstasy

neil birrell (neil@lds.co.uk)
Sat, 2 Dec 1995 21:11:11 +0100

FREEDOM (anarchist fortnightly)

A couple of weeks ago the media
@was fu@l of the case of Leah Betts
who died after taking a tablet of Ecstasy
(methylene dia@ymethyl amphet@ne).
There is an official estimate that
between 25 million and 60 million
Ecstasy tablets a year are consumed,
and these result in five or six deaths
a year.
In Leah Betts's case there was early
speculation about contamination, since
the manufacture of Ecstasy is illegal
and therefore incontrolled, but the
tablet was shown to be pure. There
was also talk of allergic reaction. The
post-mortem showed, however, that
this was a tragedy of inadequate
information. Users must remember to
drink u@thout feeling thirsty and rest
without feeling hot, as the effect of the
drug is to inhibit normal responses to
energetic activity. Leah Betts apparently
knew the rule but not the reason for
it, and drank without feeling thirsty
to the extent that she died of over-
diluted blood. Groups like Release
renewed their long-standing demand
that the offlcial 'Just SayNo' campaigns
be supplemented by proper information
for those who prefer to say Yes, and
the Health Education Council has at
last announced that it will do this.
A huge police operation is underway
to find the supplier of the drug, and
it is not impossible that he or she may
be charged with manslaughter.
Meanhile Leah's distraught father
has stated that he would like the
supplier to be convicted of murder
and sentenced to death.
About 600 people a year, mostly
young, are poisoned to death by
ethanol, and others are permanently
brain damaged, not as an allergic
reaction but as straightforward
poisoning when ethanol in the blood
reaches the critical concentration.
Some hundreds more, mostly middle-
aged, die of delemlm *@rrLens, the
withdrawal syndrome of ethanol
addiction. There are many deaths in
ethanol-induced fights, and more
people are killed and injured by
people driving cars while befuddled
with ethanol than by all other types
of violent crime put together.
This does not prove that ethanol is
more dangerous than Ecstasy, as
thousands of millions of gallons of
booze are consumed against only tens
of millions of Ecstasy tablets. But it
seems reasonable to ask why suppliers
of Ecstasy should be pursued and
prosecuted while suppliers of ethanol
should be regarded as pillars of the
Or, some to that, why Clare Short,
the Shadow Minister of Transport,
should have been repudiated and
forced to retract the moderate sugges-
tion that a committee might be set up
to consider whether cannabis might
be decriminalised. A medical report
suggests that cannabis is more
dangerous in Britain than in the United
States because of the peculiarly British
custom of mixing it with addictive and
lethal (but legal) tobacco.
It might be that middle-aged
@ournallsts, politlcians and even
magistrates are keen boozers, but
totally ignorant of Ecstasy or
cannabis. Consequently they may see
ethanol consumption as wholesome,
provided it is not excessive, but
Ecstasy or cannabis as deeply
immoral. 'Alcohol abuse' means booze
in vast quantities. 'Drug abuse' means
even the tiniest amount of a
recreational drug which happens to
be illegal.
Exhortations not to drink and drive
over the Christmas season always
include the reservation 'we don't want
to stop anybody having a good time',
meaning by 'anybody' anyone whose
idea of a good thne is to get pissed.
Those whose idea of a good time is to
get high on Ecstasyorstoned on skunk
are not included. Users of 'hard' drugs
are considered flendish.
All drugs are dangerous. We do not
condemn, but do not recommend any
recreational drug, legal or otheIwise.
We do contend, however, that the
debate about drugs would be more
rational if there were no prohibitive