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Jewish Journal

Hugs on Drugs

by Mike Levy

August 2, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Former Ecstasy users Dayna Moore (right) and Philip McCarthy testify on drug abuse before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 30.  AFP PHOTO/Mike Theiler

Former Ecstasy users Dayna Moore (right) and Philip McCarthy testify on drug abuse before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 30. AFP PHOTO/Mike Theiler

Warnings from health and law enforcement officials on the dangers of Ecstasy have not deterred Jewish teenagers and young adults from using the drug.

"Ecstasy is kind of like pot, it's a drug that kids aren't too concerned about using; it doesn't seem dangerous," said a 20-year-old CSUN psychology major who admitted to using the drug "every weekend, at least."

His friend, also 20, described the feeling he got from the little pill: "When you're on [Ecstasy], nothing seems dangerous. You just love everything. That's probably the most dangerous thing."

The psychology major agrees: "The first time I tried Ecstasy, I was with a girl I'd been seeing for three weeks. I told her I loved her. That was stupid. But I loved everyone that night."

As for neurotoxicity, or damage to the brain from drug use, the CSUN psych student seemed unconcerned about the warnings. "As long as I get a lot of sleep afterward, I'm right back to normal. I don't think there's any long-term effect."

Young Jews are not immune to the craze, a 28-year-old multimedia designer told The Journal. "Most of the people I go out [to dance clubs] with are Jewish, and they all [use Ecstasy]."

For people involved in drug education, the lack of concern is worrisome. Jonathan Zaleski, the associate director of Dance Safe Southern California, a 1-year-old organization practicing "harm reduction" at Los Angeles-area raves and other dance events, says he has been a member of the dance community, attending raves for some time. "I see people making dangerous choices," he says.

With Dance Safe, Zaleski, 32, and about 70 volunteers set up information booths at raves and other large dance events, offering information about potential side effects, drug interactions and preventative measures for people who do decide to use drugs. "We never tell people how to do drugs better, just to decrease risks they might take," he says. "With Ecstasy, the danger isn't an overdose. It's people who aren't aware of their need to drink water, or who took an adulterated pill. That's when you see kids leaving in an ambulance."

The physical side effects of Ecstasy, which most commonly include dehydration, jaw clenching and teeth grinding, and mild to severe depression after "coming down," are not the worst effect of the drug according to one 24 year-old frequent club-goer who tried Ecstasy once. "You see a bunch of people on a dance floor in a club, and you can tell the ones who are on [Ecstasy]. It's not like most people are. The kids on Ecstasy, they're the one running around hugging everyone, giggling, touching everything. You can tell they're on Ecstasy, because they act like 3-year-olds."

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