One of the most important things when taking drugs of any sort is to be well educated on their possible risks and complications and to use that information to make your use as responsible and safe as possible. Unfortunately, much of what we’re taught about drugs from school or public education campaigns is fear-based or in support of abstinence rather than education and harm reduction, reducing the accessibility of credible information about drugs.

This week, I decided to share some important harm reduction information for MDMA usage. This substance is quite widely used among college and university students. I’ve written about its therapeutic benefits in the past, but it’s important to also talk about its risks.

Testing

One of the difficulties in discussing MDMA use is that, in many cases, people have no certainty that what they’re taking is in fact MDMA. For example, it’s not uncommon for methylone or MDA to be sold as MDMA or for other stimulants to be mixed with it. This is one of the things that makes purchasing drugs from someone at an event and taking it that night dangerous—you have no opportunity to verify the identity of what you’ve purchased.

To verify the identity of your drugs, it’s recommended that you purchase a testing kit. This is a collection of solvents that can be dripped onto a small sample, and the resulting colour change will help you in identifying the substance. You can purchase testing kits from DanceSafe, a harm reduction organization made up of members of the electronic music community.

First Time

Before taking a full dose for the first time, it’s recommended that you first take a quarter dose (approximately 20-30 mg), sometimes called an “allergy test.” The reason for this is that a portion of the population has a deficiency in a liver enzyme involved in processing MDMA and other drugs. This is called “fatty liver disease” and often goes undiagnosed. The impaired metabolism of MDMA results in far stronger effects at dosages that are normal for others and the likelihood of overheating or overdose is increased.

Main Risks

Pure MDMA is a rather safe substance with a significantly better safety profile. than alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis. Nonetheless, important points to discuss surrounding the risks of MDMA include overheating, dehydration and overhydration. Deaths and serious harm resulting from MDMA use are quite rare in proportion to how much it is used. Overdoses can and do occur, but many complications of MDMA use are often due to preventable situational factors such as not having taken breaks to cool off or drinking too little (or too much) water.

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