Post-secondary schools across Canada are reporting an increase in emergencies on campus related to the use of the drug MDMA.
Within the past year, the University of Guelph Campus Police posted a safety bulletin discussing incidents involving MDMA use on campus, including two in September 2014 that resulted in hospitalization. This bulletin reflects a larger trend in Canadian universities, which have seen an increase both in MDMA use and in medical emergencies related to overdose some of which have resulted in death.
MDMA – which stands for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, and is also popularly referred to as Molly – is a recreational drug that is known for its stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. The drug was associated with 1990s rave culture, but it has seen a recent spike in use amongst young adults and is becoming increasingly common on Canadian university campuses.
Dr. Martin Laliberté, a medical doctor at McGill’s health centre, poison control expert and president of the Canadian poison control centre, commented on the dangers associated with recreational drugs and the relevance of these concerns to students. Laliberté commented as a volunteer spokesperson for the Partnership for a Drug Free Canada.
“Students should be concerned about recreational drugs in general… one of the potential problems is that there is no quality control” Laliberté said. “You are not sure exactly what you are exposed to or even what the dose is. This can have potential consequences because, from one weekend to another, the drug can actually change. The rate of change in synthetic drugs is extremely high.”
Laliberté said that even users who consistently acquire drugs from the same source can never be sure that they will always be getting the same drug. He explained that in Europe at the moment, there is up to one new synthetic drug being introduced to the market every week, with no system to control or identify which of these drugs are being sold.
In discussing MDMA specifically, Laliberté said that – in addition to the risk that users may be sold different drugs than they think – there are a lot of health complications and risks associated with MDMA that have the potential to be extremely damaging or fatal.
“I have seen, over the years, patients die right in front of me after MDMA exposure… the consequences can be very devastating,” Laliberté said. “That doesn’t mean that everybody that is exposed to the drug will necessarily have problems…. not everyone will respond in the same way… but this is a drug that is also associated with potentially very severe toxicity. It is not always lethal, but there are actually many cases of fatalities related to MDMA. It can happen with one dose, it can happen after many doses, so it’s very difficult and hard to predict.”
With MDMA use increasing on campuses, it is important for students to ensure that they are informed, aware and safe.
More information about the PDFC is available at canadadrugfree.org/, Students in crisis should contact 911.