Methylene dioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), the pure form of a street drug commonly known as ecstasy, should be legalized and sold in measured doses by government-regulated stores, British Columbia's top health official said Thursday.
Dr. Perry Kendall, the Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, told CBC News that people occasionally die from ecstasy due to street gangs cooking the drug with other chemicals. That fate befell at least 16 Canadians so far in 2012.
Dr. Kendall, however, does not see that as a reason to keep the substance outside of formal government regulation. "If you knew what a safe dosage was, you might be able to buy ecstasy like you could buy alcohol from a government-regulated store," the former CEO of the Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario told CBC News.
He also specifically pointed out that his endorsement does not mean people should look to use the drug recreationally -- only that it can be used safely and responsibly if the manufacturing process is sound and the doses are pure.
"We accept the fact that alcohol, which is inherently dangerous, is a product over a certain age that anybody can access," he said. "So I don't think the issue is a technical one of how we would manage that. The issue is a political, perceptual one."
He added that, in his view, usage rates would most likely drop after MDMA is regulated by the government, mostly due to the lack of a black market making it more easily available.
MDMA is known to cause a variety of side effects that differ with each individual. The most common include nausea, teeth grinding, increased blood pressure, sleep and memory problems, liver damage, loss of appetite, dry mouth, hot flashes, paranoia and depression. Users of the drug typically report feeling an intense sense of well being and satisfaction, high self confidence, peacefulness and sexual arousal.
The drug is on a list of controlled substances covered by the United Nations' Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and most countries consider any dealings with the drug to be a serious offense, although some exceptions are made for research purposes.
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