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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Group teaches MDMA safety

In the midst of a nationwide drug fad that has garnered negative media attention, Emerson Reform hosted a meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 2, to address the pros and cons of MDMA usage with student attendees. 

MDMA, or “Molly” in slang, is a crystal or powder form of ecstasy. It can be snorted or swallowed in capsules, and can be mixed with other stimulants. Its effects include increased sensory awareness, feelings of openness and acceptance, and the desire to dance and socialize. While some studies have indicated that in small doses, MDMA can help relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, it is more often used illegally in rave and festival scenes.

Emerson Reform is an organization that aims to educate students about drugs, both legal and illegal, in a more comprehensive way than typical drug education programs, according to Marilyn Willmoth, the group’s president.

“Students attend these meetings because they’re interested in experimenting with illegal drugs,” said the senior political communications major. “These are students who want to come and make sure that they have all of the information that they need to know before they make the decision whether or not to partake in illegal drug use.”

Willmoth said the meeting has been planned since the beginning of the year, when the executive board planned all the topics the club would cover. She said it was coincidental that the meeting followed an Emerson College Police Department email warning students of the dangers of MDMA. 

On Sept. 6, Emerson Police Chief Robert Smith detailed the effects, appearance, and risks of MDMA in an email to the student body. He referenced two deaths that had occurred in Boston due to the drug, and told students to avoid situations in which it, or any other illegal substances, could be slipped to them.

“I definitely think that all the media attention around MDMA [over the summer] has influenced people wanting to hold the information session, but I don’t think it was really related to [the email],” Willmoth said.

Eleven students attended, including Emerson Reform’s board. The meeting started with Willmoth reminding everyone that all stories shared regarding illegal drugs were confidential. The group went on to discuss various experiences they’d had, which often focused on the music scene.

On a whiteboard in the front of the room were four lists: pros, neutrals, cons, and things to be aware of. Willmoth filled out each of the categories with comments from students in the meeting.

The pros list included “feeling music” and “loving everyone.” The neutrals were factors like gnashing teeth and raised heart rate, and the cons ranged from mood problems when taking MDMA often to not knowing what other drugs it could be laced with. The list of things to be aware of had tips like staying hydrated and starting with 0.1 gram for the first few times.

Many said they were speaking from personal experience, and Willmoth referenced research she had done before the meeting on sites like
erowid.org, which she said collects research on legal and illegal drugs.

“Be cautious” was repeated every few minutes throughout the hourlong meeting, and Willmoth told students that when trying a new drug, they should be aware of the safest way to take it, as outlined in the lists on the board.

When the session was opened up for questions, many were related to MDMA being taken with other drugs. The general consensus was that MDMA and marijuana were relatively safe when combined, as were MDMA and alcohol at or below the legal limit, but that MDMA should not be mixed with other drugs.

A student who, like others in the meeting, asked to remain anonymous, expressed curiosity in another drug as well. The student asked about the amount of cocaine that could be taken safely, and requested an information session. However, Willmoth said that she considers cocaine too dangerous to do without a high risk, and would not promote its use.

Willmoth said she considers Emerson Reform to be a reliable source for students regarding drug use, saying that all members of the executive board are well-versed in current research. An information session on addiction will be held on Oct. 23 and a date rape session will be held in conjunction with Emerald Empowerment on Oct. 30. 

“We are a resource for not only the members of our group,” Willmoth said, “but the entire Emerson community.”

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