Harm Reduction Measures Prevent Ecstasy Fatalities
Sunday, July 8, 2001London police advised this week that 'youngsters who go to raves should take lots of water, relax in cool-down areas and take advice on "safer drug use"' (The Sunday Times) following the recent spate of ecstasy related deaths in the UK. Police issued their advice after learning that the two latest victims had died from overheating rather than taking contaminated ecstasy pills, which contradicted last week's warning about 'killer pills'. Lack of knowledge of harm reduction strategies was also a factor, according to drug expert Harry Shapiro from leading drugs charity Drugscope, who pointed out that most of the recent victims have been teenagers.
"Many of the young people now taking ecstasy may not have been exposed to the same sort of harm reduction advice prevalent a few years ago," Mr Shapiro told the Observer. "They are not following the rules that first-generation clubbers grew up with." 11 young people have died in Britain this year in stark contrast to Holland which recently celebrated 12 months of no-ecstasy related deaths. According to Ministry Magazine the difference in death rates was due to the Dutch's wholehearted embrace of harm reduction policies, specifically 'its liberal policies, drug testing schemes and an open working relationship between club owners and police'.
A top British businessman and former ambassador to Colombia also broke ranks with the establishment this week by calling for all drugs to be legalised, following the new police experiment in Brixton where penalties for cannabis possession have been downgraded. "Now the principle of prohibition has been abandoned, I hope the government will start a serious examination of the best way of controlling drug use within a legal framework," Sir Keith Morris told the Guardian. "There will be costs, probably, initially at least, greater use and addiction and problems quite unforeseen. But the benefits to life, health and property of the whole population would be immense."
Sir Keith served as the British Ambassador in Bogota, Colombia between 1990 and 1994 and had first had experience of the true costs of the war on drug. "It has been difficult for me to advocate legalisation because it means saying to those with whom I worked, and to the relatives of those who died, that this was an unnecessary war," he said. "But the imperative must be to try and stop the damage."