Dance Culture and the Use of MDMA

Back in the 1990s when Raves were all the rage, the night started like this; someone would send a communication out saying where the party would be. It was a secret until the very last moment. It was a race to get the party started before law enforcement agencies found it and shut it down.

You can understand why a teenager would find the whole thing exciting- the taste of the forbidden and denying authority not just parental authority but that of the government. Of course, these young people would have no idea or thoughts of the consequences of their actions. It was a party, some fun. What’s the problem?

The problem came in the form of ecstasy, the tablet that went hand in hand with the rave and increased the feelings of love and happiness. With a tablet you could dance for hours, euphoria flooded your system and it was the best party you ever went to, until it wasn’t, anymore.

Stories began to creep out of impure tablets and children who had never tried it before dying. These were not hard-nosed drug culture addicts but young misled (or even stupid) people who were in it for a laugh until it went horribly wrong.

The link between electronic dance music and MDMA is so strong that it is hard to identify which came first. Just as dance music has not gone away, neither has the habit.

It has changed, taking on new names as the culture developed. In the 2010s dance music festivals became authorized, the organizers getting the proper permits and cooperating with law enforcement agencies.

But it wasn’t the whole story. Tales started to leak out that the organizers were just enforcing control over sales and turning over non-authorized dealers, the ones who were not giving them a percentage of their take. The deaths continued. Fortunately, they continue to shock and still have the effect of causing us to pause. But they clearly demonstrate young people are at risk.

Reaching young people is relatively easy. They are attached to the mobile devices and so sending them information in a way they will receive it is not too hard. Infographics which outline the purity of MDMA as it is associated with the color of the pill can be easily found, and they are smart enough to know that purity matters.

DanceSafe, a non-profit, once took testing kits into dance festivals. Their goal was to test for purity there and then before it was ingested. It would be interesting to see which 17-year-old would buy and then test a tablet before taking it, but that’s another matter.

There is no resolution to this situation. Other than to say this is exploitation of young people in the most pernicious way. MDMA is stronger now than it has been in the past. Today it is more likely to be found in a powder form in a gel capsule. It means it works faster than a tablet. It does not mean it is any purer or safer.