VANCOUVER - British Columbia's top health official says taking pure Ecstasy can be safe when consumed responsibly by adults, despite warnings by police about the dangers of the street drug after a rash of deaths.
Dr. Perry Kendall said Thursday that the risks of MDMA — the pure substance synonymous with Ecstasy — are overblown, and that its lethal dangers arise when gangs mix the man-made chemical with other toxic substances.
Sixteen people from Canada's west coast died last July from a tainted batch of Ecstasy they obtained from dealers. It was cut with a toxin called PMMA.
Kendall said that MDMA should be sold through licensed, government-run stores where the product is strictly regulated, but he later clarified his statement, and said he is not advocating legalization. Rather, he is a strong critic of prohibition.
"I don't think it keeps drugs out of the hands of vulnerable people and I don't think it does much to reduce harmful use and I think it has other harmful effects like putting billions of dollars into the hands of criminal enterprises," Kendall said.
MDMA usually comes in the form of a capsule or a tablet, and produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth and distortions in time, perception and tactile experiences, according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
However, it also can increase a user's heart rate and raise one's blood pressure, and in some cases causes confusion, depression, sleep problems and severe anxiety, the institute said on its website. Chronic users also experience some memory and cognitive problems. On rare occasions, it can be lethal.