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June 14, 2012

B.C. Health Officer Stands by His Assertion That Pure Ecstasy Can be Safe for Adults

By: Laura Stone

The Star

British Columbia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Perry Kendall, is advocating for MDMA to be legalized and sold through government-regulated stores in Canada. Kendall says that the risks of MDMA are overblown, suggesting that psychedelic research from MAPS and others will provide better, safer drug policies.


Originally appearing here.

Faced with a deluge of attention, Dr. Perry Kendall is standing behind his controversial comments that taking pure ecstasy can be safe.

But B.C.’s chief provincial health officer sought to clarify his position Thursday that he is not advocating for MDMA to be legalized and sold in stores, as stated in a previous story.

“I was asked a hypothetical question, which was that if those drugs were to be legalized, what would be the best way of doing it,” he said in an interview Thursday.

A spokesman for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq issued a statement in response to the story and Kendall’s clarification.

“Our government is not contemplating any changes that would make ecstasy legal, so we have no further comment to make at this time,” said spokesman Steve Outhouse.

Kendall says Canada should instead look at an “evidence-based way” of regulating and controlling psychoactive substances.

“Let’s look at what works and what doesn’t work. Let’s look at what harms of various drugs are and compare them. And let’s look at the impacts of the policies on a drug use,” he said.

“We should be looking at a regulatory regime that is more evidence-based than the current one and decide as a society how we want to control these drugs, given that the current control is not optimal, in my opinion.”

Kendall reiterated that taking MDMA, a pharmaceutically pure product, under the right circumstances and in non-toxic dosages, can treat conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder.

He compared the substance with alcohol, which is legal, but can cause death if abused.

“We allow people to get intoxicated with alcohol. A bottle of vodka can kill you very easily, if you swallow the whole bottle. It’s addictive,” he said.

He admitted, that if legalized, MDMA would like be used recreationally, but added that alcohol is arguably more dangerous.

“What is fundamentally the difference between that and a psychoactive substance that makes people feel good and gives them some energy, which as far as we know isn’t addictive, doesn’t cause cancer, doesn’t destroy the brain?” he asked.

The RCMP in B.C., who have a team dedicated to dismantling clandestine drug labs, maintain no amount of the substance is safe.

The medical literature says that MDMA — technically 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine — sends waves of serotonin flooding through the brain. The natural brain chemical makes people feel happy, social and intimate with others.

According to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, MDMA carries a list of potential health effects that include teeth grinding, sweating, increased blood pressure and heart rate, anxiety, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and convulsions, even at low doses.

The medical establishment widely agrees MDMA is not addictive.

But new research suggests some of the drug’s long-stated ill effects are exaggerated.

MDMA was criminalized in Canada in 1976 and in the U.S. 1985. It was recently boosted to the top of Canada’s drug scheduling list under the federal government’s omnibus crime bill, meaning it carries penalties similar to those for cocaine and heroin.


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