Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Fumbling towards ecstasy

Highs, lows and legal E

I received the news with mixed feelings and many questions.

Legal ‘ecstasy’ now being sold in the Village and at Fantasy Factory locations across the Lower Mainland to anyone over 18. What to make of it?

They’re called Pure Pillz and they’re being marketed as a “safer legal alternative to dangerous street drugs.”

They come in four varieties and are attached to different adjectives: speedy, euphoric, sensual and psychedelic, all meant to emulate the experiences people have with meth, speed, ecstasy and mushrooms.

The simple fact of their easy availability — legal and over the counter — opens up so many discussions at once. Especially in our community where, legal or not, meth, poppers, coke, pot and ecstasy are common facts of life.

Pure Pillz are legal because their two active ingredients, benzylpiperazine (BZP) and 3-Trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine (TFMPP), are legal. Though they have a combined effect similar to MDMA and amphetamines, BZP and TFMPP are not yet themselves illegal in Canada.

(You may notice some other differences between Pure Pillz and MDMA: a longer arc of the high, six-to-eight hours, and a lack of some of the empathogenic effects. They’re also, some research suggests, less addictive.)

Still the pillz seem to be available through a legal loophole — one nobody has yet thought to seal — and are by no means regulated.

So what to make of these pillz? Are they a great, and potentially safer, opportunity for people interested in trying ecstasy but wary of buying street drugs to try a little legal E? The fixed dosages listed on the package certainly offer consumers the possibility of knowing what they’re taking every time. Let’s face it, pills purchased on the street can often be a crapshoot and can be cut with almost anything.

When I told people that this legal E was available over the counter, not everyone went running to go and try some — though some were receptive to the idea of knowing they could get a fixed dosage with more predictable effects each time.

Others say there’s a time and a place for party drugs and they’re not interested enough to run out and buy some this very second.

Still others are not interested at all, being simply averse to the hangovers and emotional consequences of introducing artificial highs and lows into their lives.

For me, I think one of the best things about the pillz is the discussion they could open up around all substance use in our lives.

The issues are much larger than me and often glazed over with language that sometimes denies both the power of the substances we use and the frailty of our bodies and minds.

I know I wish I had learned a number of these lessons sooner in my life. I’ve had to develop my own language around substance use and navigate my own experiences like everyone else.

Given the frailty of our minds and bodies, it’s worth acknowledging that substance use carries many risks but, safely executed, can also yield many pleasures. Of course, on the flip side of safe and responsible partying, is an underbelly of addiction, an issue especially prevalent here in Vancouver.

The fact is, our days and nights are already saturated in substance use of all types. Whether it’s an office culture fuelled by caffeine or the social (and sexual) lubricant of alcohol, our bodies are constantly under some influence. We wear our use of legalized substances and medicines as affectations to manage our moods.

Personally, I’ve come to see our bodies as equations. People must learn for themselves which additions and subtractions yield the effects they’re looking for and what consequences each one carries — whether we’re talking about sugar and nutrition, adrenaline highs from exercise, or drugs, illegal or illicit, prescribed or self-medicated.

Working for the last year at an organization that champions harm reduction, I respect the choices that people make, but try to inform those decisions where I can.

Without discussion around things like substance use and sexual health, many youth are left to their own experimentation and peer groups for their information. Though many keep these issues at arms length, either through morals or simply their own fear, many others will successfully obtain drugs — legal, Pure Pillz or otherwise. Can we really afford as a community not to discuss drug use and people’s individual choices openly?

I never knew it would be like this when I was growing up. I never thought drugs would be so easily obtainable, over the counter or otherwise. With marijuana delivered door-to-door and now E over the counter, I worry about its implications but support the discussion that this can open up.