Santa Clara County launches anti-Ecstasy campaign

January 18, 2012 2:19:27 AM PST
In an effort to discourage teens and young adults in Santa Clara County from taking the drug Ecstasy, officials have launched a countywide Ecstasy prevention initiative and unveiled a documentary film about the dangers of the drug.

Officials said that the initiative is in response to a growing "epidemic" of Ecstasy drug use among the county's youth.

A survey of 1,850 students in Santa Clara County found that as many as one in four teens have tried the drug at least once.

"Many teens think it's just a feel good drug that removes their inhibitions," Supervisor Liz Kniss said. Kniss is chair of the Board of Supervisors' Health and Hospital Committee. "The Ecstasy initiative is a call to action to 'spread the word' to all youth, parents, schools and community members that Ecstasy is dangerous and deadly."

Long-term memory deficit, concentration problems, depression and anxiety have all been linked to long-term Ecstasy use, according to the county and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

County officials said that in 2001 there were 100 Ecstasy-related deaths in the U.S., and that number reached more than 500 deaths in 2010. Since 2009, five people have died in Santa Clara County after using Ecstasy.

In June 2010, two local men -- Anthony Mata, 23, of Santa Clara, and Trung Nguyen, 25, of San Jose -- were killed from Ecstasy-related drug overdoses and several people were hospitalized after attending the "etd.POP 2010" electronic music festival at the Cow Palace in Daly City.

Since then, county and state officials have been lobbying for legislation regulating raves, because they say Ecstasy is most frequently used in a club setting. However, more teens are trying or taking the drugs at home, according to county officials.

County officials said that the shift in use is partly due to the fact that the cost per pill has dropped by at least 50 percent since 2001.

The initiative aims to educate youth, parents and schools as well as legal and medical communities and the Legislature through a mix of prevention and collaboration.

According to the documentary, "Ecstasy: Lives Out of Balance," which touches on the long-term health effects of using the drug, those who use Ecstasy are not the only ones suffering the consequences.

In the film, a woman who knew Mata speaks to how her life and the lives of those who knew Mata were changed after he died. "Anthony Mata is loved by a lot of people ... and we miss him every single day," she said.

One teen interviewed in the documentary compared taking Ecstasy to playing Russian Roulette because the drug is often cut with other drugs -- from novocaine to caffeine to methamphetamine, according to health officials.

Another interviewed teen said, "Ecstasy is kind of like a cocktail drug. Half the dealers that sell Ecstasy don't even know what's in it."

Santa Clara County Assistant Medical Examiner Michelle Jorden, who was also interviewed in the film, said that taking even a single Ecstasy pill can prove fatal.

"People don't always know the dose of the Ecstasy they are taking, but many other chemicals can also be mixed in with that pill," Jorden said.