Death toll hasn’t put Scottish ravers off Ecstasy
“IT’S part of the culture. I’ve never seen a problem with that. It’s just a party and a party atmosphere.
“It [Ecstasy] is certainly present, but it’s not the main thing that’s happening. People are drinking and it’s about the music.”
These are the comments of a 24-year-old DJ and party organiser from Edinburgh who is in the thick of “rave culture” in Scotland, in which illegal drugs such as Ecstasy – selling for up to £10 a tab – are a common feature.
The drug which first emerged into the mainstream in the 1990s may have appeared to have fallen out of fashion as the purity fell but, as the latest survey by European monitors has found, it is still being taken with alarming regularity by young Scots despite the lurid headlines that accompany any death linked to its use.
The DJ, who asked to remain anonymous, said that, crucially, takers believe it is safe and without long-term consequences to health. “It’s just good fun,” he explained. “It makes you more sociable, more chatty, you just really enjoy yourself and I don’t think it’s really harmful like heroin is.
“Ecstasy is seen as a relatively safe drug. I can’t speak for all these new drugs, but Ecstasy, just Ecstasy, is relatively safe. It’s not addictive and I don’t think it has a proven long-term effect.”
Experts say that unlike some other drugs, Ecstasy users see taking it as compatible with holding down a job or carrying on with their studies. They believe there is little difference between going to the pub and having a few pints, and going to a rave and taking a few pills. They report a sense of euphoria and intimacy with others, although there is a “come down” period, which can bring depression and anxiety. “It’s not something that’s going to affect your work life or your university life,” the DJ said. “It’s something that you do on a Friday and then go back to doing whatever it is you do during the week.
“There are people who take it to extremes, but in my experience most think it’s like going out for a drink on a Friday night. You go to the pub, and have a few bevvies, but that’s not your life. I would put Ecstasy into the same category.”
Researchers at the Centre for Drug Misuse Research in Glasgow agree that Ecstasy users do not fit any stereotype. Alasdair Forsyth, who has been researching drug use for more than a decade, said in an interview: “E users don’t fall into the stereotyped image we have of drug users. Many are holding down a ‘proper’ job, most don’t commit crime (apart from dealing) and they don’t tend to take escalating amounts of E. Basically they’re nice people”.
There are also differences in the way Ecstasy dealers operate, he added. “It’s different to the way the junkies deal – they were all about ripping each other off, often stealing money to buy drugs. A lot of E users buy more at once and give pills to their friends”.
In the longer term, Ecstasy use has been linked to paranoia, a loss of mental capacity, and impaired cognitive ability. But it’s the potential immediate effects that occasionally bring its use back to public attention. Last year, Scott McIntosh, 20, died in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, with police believing a type of Ecstasy pill called Einstein was to blame.
The death of McIntosh, a former pupil at Culloden Academy, followed a number of other fatalities of young men thought to be linked to the rave drug. Jordan Hallam, 17, of Stirling, also died in September last year after apparently taking a pink Ecstasy pill at a party.
Ecstasy tablets six times stronger than normal were linked to the deaths of two men in separate incidents in the previous July in the west of Scotland: Steven Kelly, 19, a soldier, and Lee Dunnachie, 22, who had recently become a father, died after taking the powerful drugs.
Drug education experts believe Ecstasy tablets are becoming stronger as the original active chemical of Ecstasy, MDMA, is being reintroduced into the manufacture of the drug following a period when alternative chemicals were being used. Matthew Straw, of Edinburgh-based Crew 2000, said users who would commonly take more than one pill, or mix Ecstasy with other drugs, would sometimes not be familiar with the strength of the MDMA.
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