Oakville’s Favourite Party Drug: MDMA

Photo credit: Symic / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Symic / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

It’s a common scene at parties across the area. As the music blares and the alcohol begins to buzz, someone pulls from their pocket a small baggie filled with quartz-like crystals. They can be small enough to be swallowed whole, or ground sometimes into a fine powder and parachuted – where a small dose is wrapped in tissue before being consumed.

Known as MDMA or M, the clouded white crystals have quietly become the preferred party drug for teens and young adults in Oakville. As the active ingredient in ecstasy, MDMA is generally seen as a stronger, cleaner alternative to the pills so prevalent in the late 1990s.

It is especially popular at large electronic music festivals, like Toronto’s Digital Dreams. “I don’t think you could find anyone that wasn’t on it [last year],” said 21-year-old Burlington resident Bianca Del Bois, who does not use the drug. “I felt really out of place just being drunk. People were all a little too nice, a little too touchy. No one’s that nice unless they’re on drugs.”

It’s a strong description of people rolling on M. Shortly after ingesting the drug, a profound euphoria overtakes the user. As serotonin floods the brain’s pleasure centres, feelings of anxiety, stress and fear quickly fade away. The user experiences an elevated mood and increased extroversion along with an enhanced sense of touch and connectedness. The user will commonly clench their jaw and display signs of overheating and dehydration.

Afterwards, the comedown can last for days. Most users report feelings of depression and paranoia along with dizziness, insomnia, and a loss of appetite. The term “Suicide Tuesday” is often used to describe the depressive period following the presumed weekend use of the drug, and reveals just how low the experience can be.

Photo credit: diebmx / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: diebmx / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Outside of concerts and festivals, MDMA is readily available to those who seek it. “If you called five people, one of them would have it,” Del Bois said. “You can ask a few friends, I guarantee one of the friends you ask will be able to find it. In some ways it’s easier to find than weed.”

Late last month Halton Regional Police seized large quantities of the drug during a raid on a home near Eighth Line and Upper Middle. Along with the MDMA, sizeable amounts of marijuana, oxycodone and clonazepam were also seized. Police were unable to comment on how the raid would affect the local drug supply.

The raid is indicative of the changing landscape of drug use in Halton. Traditional drugs like cocaine and heroin have moved to the fringe, replaced by prescription painkillers and other synthetic drugs.

Chondrena Vieira-Martins, manager of adult services at Halton’s Alcohol, Drugs and Gambling Assessment, Prevention and Treatment Services (ADAPT), echoed that sentiment.

“Obviously marijuana is a growing concern, it’s something that’s become more normalized in our society,” said Chondrena Vieira-Martins, manager of adult services at Halton’s ADAPT treatment centres, “We see MDMA, and whatever’s hot and current. We’re seeing in Halton more use of prescription opioid medication, and what’s called poly-substance abuse.”

MDMA, however, is typically underrepresented at the treatment centre in place of more addictive substances, according to Brent Gmora, a youth councillor at ADAPT.

He is quick to point out that drug use is down among teens, citing the 2011 CAMH Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, one of the largest and longest running drug use surveys in the world.

“Drug use is down because of more programming and better awareness,” he said. “There’s a lot more community based stuff these days. And we’re teaching kids at a younger age.”

This year’s survey will be completed next month. CAMH is hoping up to 11, 000 students grade 7 to 12 will participate.



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