Drug criminalisation claimed another tragic victim last night 17 May) with the death of 18 year old Ana Hick. From press reports it appears hers was yet another preventable death caused by taking toxic PMMA that is sometimes substituted for MDMA due to prohibition and ruthless gangster capitalism.
The EU prohibition on ecstasy and the criminalisation of its manufacture, trade and use has like the alcohol prohibition of the 1920s the consequence of promoting gangster capitalism. And just as gangsters would sometimes substitute methyl alcohol (meths) for normal ethyl alcohol back then today's gangster capitalists substitute PMMA for MDMA. As with gangster capitalism in the 20s this means that users end up taking a very much more dangerous substance than they intended. And as with the 20s such deaths often come in waves as a batch of such substitutions is released onto the market. 23 people died after New Years Eve in 1926 New York due to drinking meths substituted for ethyl alcohol. Such substitutions are still sometimes made for profit with similar tragic results, 5 people died from one such incident in Turkey in 2011.
Drug criminalisation across the EU has targeted not only sellers and users of ecstasy but also the manufacturing process. This has made the manufacture of MDMA (the drug users expect when they take ecstasy) both more expensive and difficult. So gangster capitalists have substituted another drug, PMMA which gives a similar but weaker sense of euphoria. Because that sense is weaker those taking such pill can make the mistake of assuming they have got a weak batch and so instead to taking one or a half pill end up taking more to obtain the expected effect. Media reports suggest Ana may have taken three pills, 3-6 times what many would take.
PMMA not only has a weaker effect but also unlike MDMA it is very toxic. There were 27 PMMA related deaths in Israel in 2007 and 9 deaths in the Canadian city of Calgary in Canada in 2011. Six people died in Ireland between December 2013 and May 2014.
PMMA deaths are a consequence of criminalisation & prohibition. Prohibition has made it very much more likely that gangster capitalist will substitute PMMA for MDMA. Users are aware the risk exists but hope it won't happen to them, in that aspect prohibition resembles the old 'then don't have sex' defence of the ban on contraception for unmarried people.
Criminalisation means that users have no way of obtaining pills that have not been adulterated with MDMA. Rather than being able to buy a precisely measured and quality controlled dose in a pharmacy they often have to buy pills they can hardly even see in the darkness of a nightclub. And criminalisation also means that even nightclubs can't try and reduce the danger by offering to do on the spot tests of pill purity before users take them - this is possible in some clubs in the Netherlands. The profits that come with prohibition also encourages the formation of violent ruthless gangs, just as it did in the 1920s USA.
As with the 1920s the solution is obvious, decriminalisation and legalisation of the conditions under which such drugs can be sold. No more adulterated pills, accidental poisonings or super profits for gangsters. A vastly reduced number of deaths, MDMA being a lot less toxic than alcohol.
The 'war on drugs' approach favoured by most politicians and the media has been failing for 30 plus years. It has killed huge numbers of people, not only the people who die from overdoses and adulterations but also all those killed because of the creation of super profit gangster capitalism. Huge damage has been done to countries that have become a focus for those profits, it is thought that by 2013 130,000 had been murdered in drug wars in Mexico alone and another 27,000 are missing.
In 2003 the UN estimated that prohibition / illegal drugs generated an estimated US$321.6 billion. As much of that profit is dependent on continued criminalisation there are clearly huge vested interests who want to keep drugs criminalised and the consequent super profits flowing. Criminalisation also gives racist politicians and police a weapon to criminalise particular marginalised groups, in the US Black drug users are very much more likely to be jailed than their white counter parts. And criminalisation has a strong appeal to those who want to maintain a society where the few get to control the many.
Advice for anyone who might accidentally take PMMA
WORDS: Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )