A tweet from Ben Goldacre pointed me in the direction of something considerably alarming. In an absolutely extraordinary example of disregard for public health, the British Columbia police have refused to disclose important information about potentially lethal adulterated ecstasy tablets, on the grounds that they feel it would make taking other ecstasy tablets seem more acceptable.
Despite a series of deaths linked with PMMA – a highly dangerous chemical that’s been infrequently used to adulterate ecstasy tablets for a while now – police in Vancouver say that they are reluctant to reveal what the seized and tested adulterated tablets look like, because they don’t want users to think they are sanctioning other pills.
The thing that ecstasy should be – MDMA – is relatively safe when taken in controlled dosages, and when users understand how to regulate hydration and body temperature. PMMA, however, is considerably more unpredictable, and even low doses of the chemical have killed on a number of occasions.
Seemingly refusing to acknowledge that people are, in fact, going to continue to take recreational drugs, this police force has taken the decision to actively endanger users’ lives by withholding astonishingly important information.
In a report on Canadian news station CTV, criminologist Darryl Plecas (the report fails to explain why a criminologist is interviewed about a medical topic) says “using ecstasy is like playing Russian Roulette” – perhaps he would like to explain to the police department that doing so would be less like playing Russian Roulette if they would inform people of which tablets may be adulterated. While it’s true that any pills may be bad, and markings on tablets can be easily replicated, the police have knowledge of at least one tablet type that definitely could kill you. And yet they’re refusing to say which one it is.
This is one of the most flagrant examples of disregard for public safety from a police department that I have ever seen. I’d say it is likely that several more people will die because of it.