The legalization of XTC has more advocates. But are their arguments valid? Advocates for the legalization of Ecstasy have received a lot of attention in recent weeks. First professor of Medication Safety Kees Kramers of the Radboud UMC, in an interview in the newspapers of De Persgroep. A week later, Arjen Lubach argued for legalization in his broadcast. Subsequently, SP States member Joep van Meel responded in the same line via a guest opinion in this newspaper (31 October). Ecstasy use seems to be becoming more and more common, despite the health risks, the enormous environmental damage and crime that it entails. There is therefore reason to evaluate the policy. During an evaluation, both the arguments for and against must be considered. Addiction care institution Novadic-Kentron is therefore scrutinizing the arguments put forward by Arjen Lubach.
1. Legalization is the solution for crime and environmental damage
Legalization would take the wind out of the sails of criminals and offer a solution to the many discharges of drug waste. This is partly correct, since production for the domestic market is disappearing from the illegal circuit and that part of the drug waste is no longer discharged. However, studies show that by far the largest part of XTC production is destined for the foreign market. Legalization is therefore not the solution for most of the crime and environmental damage resulting from XTC production.
2. Legalization leads to pills that are good and pure
When the government supervises the production of XTC, pollution is prevented and can regulate the dosage of MDMA, the active substance in XTC. Consumers can have their XTC tested in the Netherlands. Because of this we know that XTC has never been as 'pure' as it is now. The Trimbos Institute states that most health disturbances are the result of high doses of MDMA and not of contaminated pills (these are rare, but are of course very dangerous). Little is known about the dosage desired by consumers. Many users who speak to employees of Novadic-Kentron unfortunately indicate that they are looking for strong XTC. The question is whether pills with a controlled dose can ensure that less MDMA is taken. Some of the users choose to take multiple pills. The designation 'good and pure pills' incorrectly suggests that these pills do not pose any health risks.
3. XTC is a safe means of pleasure
A risk evaluation by the RIVM, in which all stimulants are classified according to their harmful nature, shows that XTC scores lower than alcohol and tobacco. However, these kinds of lists are also - among scientists - not uncontroversial, because apples are compared with pears.
For example, one pure XTC pill can be fatal to someone, while no one has ever died from one beer. This is because some people are so sensitive to the MDMA in Ecstasy that a small amount of it can be fatal for them. Ecstasy use is like Russian roulette to them.
Arjen Lubach said that more people die per year from alcohol than from XTC use. That is true, but that is also because more people use alcohol much more frequently and for longer. Furthermore, we do not know the actual number of XTC deaths, because this is not registered nationally. Finally, little research has been done into the long-term effects of XTC, but there are strong indications that use can lead to perception, memory disorders and mood problems. These are also complaints that Novadic-Kentron encounters with users.
4. Users are not dependent on the illegal circuit
It is an advantage if users are not dependent on the illegal circuit for their XTC. This may prevent them from being offered other drugs. With regulated pills, the user can also be better informed about the effects and risks of XTC.
Legally selling XTC, however, makes XTC more accessible to a wider audience. The more accessible the offer is, the sooner people will start using it. We also see this with alcohol and tobacco. Age limits can be linked to legal sales. However, as with alcohol and cannabis, minors will be able to easily circumvent these rules. Finally, legal sale suggests that the drug is safe. There is no risk-free use of XTC, all the more because the risks of this drug have not been sufficiently identified.
Providing information about XTC is essential. Prevention workers from Novadic-Kentron therefore provide information through various channels. Unfortunately, this does not lead to less risky use for some of the users; 'To pack down is to pack up' is a phrase that Novadic-Kentron employees regularly hear. Once some ecstasy users have used ecstasy, they take off the brakes and use more than they intended. Discouraging Ecstasy use is always best, but it is not likely to be done by commercial legal sellers.
Novadic-Kentron is against criminalizing XTC use. Being able to talk openly about use serves public health. However, downplaying the risks in the discussion and normalizing XTC use is a bridge too far for us.
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