Club Drug Screening: Saving Lives or Encouraging the Habit?

Club Drug Screening: Saving Lives or Encouraging the Habit?

Club Drug Screening: Saving Lives or Encouraging the Habit?

Club Drug Screening: Saving Lives or Encouraging the Habit?Party drugs have been around as long as partying has. Taking the drugs out of the party is not an easy feat, which is why some authorities, mostly in Europe, have decided to take another approach. Rather than trying to halt the use of drugs in clubs, at raves, and at music festivals, some cities are testing the drugs that the partiers bring in. The idea is to inform partygoers as to the actual content of their drugs and to prevent accidental deaths.

Club Drug Deaths

Party drugs are often considered to be less serious than other illegal substances. Young people use drugs like LSD, ecstasy and marijuana to enhance the party experience. Most of these substances are far less addictive than other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine or prescription narcotics. The party drugs are also less likely to cause death by an accidental overdose. Many people who use party drugs do so only occasionally and are not otherwise hard drug users.

When used infrequently, these drugs pale in comparison to their more serious cousins in the world of illicit drugs. Over the last few years, though, clubs and festivals have seen an unfortunate upswing in deaths caused by drug use. The classic club drug ecstasy and its doppelgangers seem to be behind many of the tragedies.

Ecstasy is a drug that is taken in pill form. It makes the user feel euphoric, energetic and very loving toward others. MDMA, the psychoactive chemical in ecstasy, has been flooding clubs over the last few years and has been marketed by dealers as a better, more pure form of ecstasy. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that a drug sold as MDMA, also called Molly, is as pure as the dealers hope buyers will believe. It is often cut with other drugs, including but not limited to Ritalin and LSD, which can result in deadly combinations.

Many recent club deaths have been attributed to Molly. In the U.K., yet another substance, PMA, is being sold at clubs under the names MDMA or ecstasy, but it is not the same thing. It has caused several accidental deaths as well. PMA has a similar effect on the user, but it is much more toxic than ecstasy. Unsuspecting clubbers are not getting what they paid for, and some are paying the ultimate price.

Drug Screening

The solution to the deaths being caused by impure and improperly labeled club drugs is debatable, but a practice that has been used in continental Europe for years deserves a closer look. As an example, a group called CheckIt! in Vienna, Austria, is funded by the city to test drugs for purity and content. The group is made up of counselors trained to talk to partiers about the drugs they are using. They scrape a small sample of the drug and test it right there on the spot. Once the person intending to ingest the drug has the information, he or she can make a better decision about using or not using the substance.

The CheckIt! team members and their supporters believe that they are saving lives by giving drug users the opportunity to make an informed decision. They claim that they do not condone or support drug use. They simply feel that by knowing what is in a pill, a person might make a better choice and accidental deaths could potentially be avoided.

There is little to no evidence to back up the efficacy of programs like the one in Vienna because getting funding for research is difficult. Similar programs have been used in other countries in Europe, in Bogota, Colombia and more recently in the U.K. One benefit of the testing programs is that experts and researchers have been able to collect data about what substances people think they are using, and what is really being sold. For instance, the program found that in Belgium, more than half of what users assumed to be pure MDMA contained none of the substance. Drugs purported to be MDMA have been found to include PMA, veterinarian de-worming medicine, LSD and other substances.

Proponents of drug screening programs at clubs claim that it reduces accidental deaths. Critics say that it only encourages drug use. While the effort is becoming common and accepted in certain countries, there is no such program in the U.S. Whether there will be in the future remains to be seen, but having evidence that screening saves lives would help make a better case for the practice.

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