XTC or ecstasy (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a popular “party drug” among adolescents and young adults. It reduces inhibitions and promotes euphoria and increased sensuality. However, XTC can interfere with the ability to regulate body temperature. This can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia) resulting in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular failure. Repeated use of the drug can also cause permanent brain damage.
Belgium and the Netherlands are the world’s major producers of XTC tablets. Though XTC is an illegal drug in both countries, operating clandestine laboratories is a very lucrative business for criminals. Small laboratories can produce large numbers of tablets quickly at low cost. Moreover, the risk of being caught is minimal: the laboratories are inconspicuous and can be easily cleared and moved. Reports estimate that over 2 million tablets produced in Belgium and the Netherlands are smuggled into the U.S. each week.
Belgium and the Netherlands both tend to be tolerant towards the possession of drugs. The regional government of Wallonia, the French-speaking southern half of Belgium, decided this week to establish a government-funded non-profit organisation which will offer to check the quality of their XTC tablets for visitors to parties, discos and summer festivals. In this way the government hopes to reduce the number of deaths resulting from the use of low quality tablets. The Walloon government intends to start the taxfunded testing in the next few days. The project received the approval of the Belgian federal minister of Health.
The decision was criticised today in a sardonic editorial in the popular newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. “Teenagers and young adults are given the impression that there is nothing wrong with XTC. A government-funded non-profit organisation will even test your tablets for free! The government might as well establish a non-profit organisation to tell youngsters visiting a brothel for the first time how to use a condom?”