Can pure ecstasy, known as MDMA, be taken safely by adults? Dr. Perry Kendall, a British Columbia doctor, says yes, it can.
Kendall says that he is not advocating for the drug to be legalized. According to him, he is asking a "hypothetical question," which is: "If those drugs were to be legalized, what would be the best way of doing it?"
Still, Kendall critiques the way the Canadian government is going about regulating and controlling psychoactive substances. He says that Canada should approach it in an "evidence-based way," by looking at "what works and what doesn't work." The current "regulatory regime" is, according to Kendall, "not optimal."
Essenctially, Kendall is arguing for drug policy to be based wholly on empirical evidence. That does seem most logical, and it is not unlike the arguments made by marijuana legalization advocates here in the United States.
Kendall compares MDMA to alcohol, which, like ecstasy, can be dangerous, even fatal, if abused. Alcohol can be arguably more dangerous that MDMA.
He also says that MDMA, if taken under the right circumstances in non-toxic dosages, can treat mental conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder.
Medical literature ascribes the euphoria and social intimacy of MDMA to the waves of serotonin it sends flooding through the brain.
His rhetoric continues to run parallel with marijuana advocates here in the US: "What is fundamentally the difference between that and a psychoactive substance that makes people feel good and gives them some energy, which as far as we know isn't addictive, doesn't cause cancer, doesn't destroy the brain?" he asks.
But other findings run counter to this. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in B.C., who have a team dedicated to finding illegal drug labs, maintain that no amount of the substance is safe. Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has a list of MDMA's potential health effects, which include teeth grinding, sweating, increased blood pressure and heart rate, anxiety, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and convulsions, even at low doses.
Steve Outhouse, a spokesman for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, responded to Kendall's statements, saying, "Our government is not contemplating any changes that would make ecstasy legal, so we have no further comment to make at this time."
Still, the medical establishment widely agrees that the substance is not addictive, and new research suggests that the negative effects associated with the drugs may be exaggerated.
Despite all this debate, MDMA still remains a highly criminal substance in Canada. It was recently put at the top of Canada's drug scheduling list under the federal governments omnibus crime bill, carrying similar penalties to cocaine and heroin.
The fact this discussion about MDMA is even happening is a positive step. The drug may continue to frighten some people for the foreseeable future, which is an understandable effect of Reefer Madness-esque scare tactics, not to mention all too real tragedies that have resulted from its abuse. Hard facts and solid drug education based on the empirical approach that Kendall is in favor of may ultimately be the most effective way to protect public safety.
Image by Chris Breikss, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing