The rise of the party drug MDMA

Shannon first tried the party drug MDMA six years ago. (JACK BOLAND, QMI Agency)

Shannon first tried the party drug MDMA six years ago. (JACK BOLAND, QMI Agency)

Angela Hennessy, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

TORONTO -- Shannon first tried the party drug MDMA six years ago at a club when she was 20.

There to see a new electronic dance music (EDM) DJ with her friends, she said the show opened her up to a whole new experience.

"I loved it. There is something about the music and the drug that makes you feel so good," the 26-year-old said about her feelings of being high back then.

However, recently she has become very reluctant to buy MDMA -- commonly known as "Molly" -- because of the high risk that the drugs are laced with something else.

"It's like playing Russian roulette every time you take it now, you just have no idea what you are going to be getting."

The key ingredient in ecstacy, MDMA stimulates you mentally, creates a feeling of emotional warmth, empathy toward others and a general sense of well being.

Despite the well-known risks attached to the sometimes-volatile drug, it is as popular as ever and very much a part of mainstream drug use. Taking ecstasy at music festivals or raves is not a new thing but the growing culture of using MDMA at multi-day EDM festivals can have deadly consequences.

Three young people died of drug overdoses at two different music festivals in Canada over the August long weekend.

Willard Amurao, 22, and Annie Truong-Le, 20, died after taking "party drugs" at VELD music fest in Toronto. More than 10 others who attended the festival ended up in hospital after taking an unknown drug.

That same weekend during the Boonstock music fest in Penticton, B.C., a 24-year-old woman died after a suspected overdose and more than 80 people were hospitalized.

"It is absolutely everywhere at these shows, but you never know really what you're getting," Shannon said. "It's popular because MDMA helps gives you the energy you might want for these two-day shows."

According to a recent Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) study, MDMA has been laced with a range of substances, including caffeine, LSD and ketamine.

The report adds: "A major factor in many ecstasy-related deaths is the dehydration and overheating that can result when ecstasy is taken in conjunction with all-night dancing."

Although the drug is considered somewhat safe if uncut and used properly, there are serious concerns.

It's not unusual for the drug to be mixed with other potentially dangerous substances and people often buy it from strangers. Inexperienced users also often take too much and fail to stay hydrated.

Toronto Police reported that some VELD concertgoers had taken pills they found on the ground. While that news might have shocked some people, those familiar with the culture say they are not surprised by the deaths.

"People are pretty much just taking anything from anyone," Shannon said. "They can often take it too far because there is very little responsibility taking place."


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