Study suggests federal law to combat use of 'club drugs' has done more harm than good

August 17, 2014

A federal law enacted to combat the use of "club drugs" such as Ecstasy—and today's variation known as Molly—has failed to reduce the drugs' popularity and, instead, has further endangered users by hampering the use of measures to protect them.

University of Delaware sociology professor Tammy L. Anderson makes that case in a paper she will present at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. The paper, which has been accepted for publication this fall in the American Sociological Association journal Contexts, examines the unintended consequences of the 2003 RAVE (Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy) Act. The act was designed to address the use of drugs, sometimes by very young teens, at the all-night electronic-dance-music parties known as raves that were especially common in the 1990s.

The law targeted club owners and promoters, holding them criminally responsible for illegal use at their events.

And that's the problem, Anderson says. Before the law was passed, raves often provided services to help protect participants who were using drugs: free bottled water was available to combat the dehydration that can occur, for example, and security staff patrolled the event on the lookout for anyone in distress who might need medical care. Independent groups, such as Dance Safe, sometimes set up booths outside raves and tested the drugs people were carrying to alert them to dangerous ingredients.

"There were a lot of groups like that, and there was a lot of educational information about drugs being made available," Anderson says. "Today, clubs and promoters are reluctant to take those precautions because it could be used as evidence against them." They sometimes even fail to summon medical help when needed, she says.

At the same time, the RAVE Act has clearly been ineffective in curtailing drug use at club events, Anderson says. Participants now widely use the drug Molly—for MDMA, the ingredient in Ecstasy—to stay awake for what is often a 24-hour party. Deaths from the use of Molly are not uncommon, according to Anderson, who cites examples such as the two 20-somethings who died at the 2013 Electronic Zoo (EZoo) festival in New York.

"The RAVE Act is a relic of the War on Drugs," she says. "It never worked in the past, and it's not working now."

Anderson has conducted extensive research on raves, drug use, and the youth culture, including five years of intensive observations and interviews of rave participants on the East Coast of the U.S. and in London and Spain, supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice. She is the author of Rave Culture: The Alteration and Decline of a Music Scene (Temple University Press, 2009).

Explore further: Mephedrone boosts illegal drug use

More information: The paper, "Molly Deaths, and Why the Drug War Won't Clean Up Rave Culture," will be presented on Sunday, Aug. 17, at 2:30 p.m. PDT in San Francisco at the American Sociological Association's 109th Annual Meeting.

Related Stories

Mephedrone boosts illegal drug use

April 23, 2013

Experienced clubbers are more likely to add the former 'legal high' mephedrone to their drug repertoires rather than use it to replace popular established club drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine, according to new research ...

Ecstasy use on rise again among U.S. teens

December 3, 2013

(HealthDay)—The number of U.S. teens who wind up in the emergency room after taking the club drug Ecstasy has more than doubled in recent years, raising concerns that the hallucinogen is back in vogue, federal officials ...

'Legal highs,' PMMA and zombie panic

February 18, 2014

Recent deaths in both Canada and the UK linked to PMA/PMMA in ecstasy pills has brought public scrutiny to this little known drug. With Canadian producing most of the ecstasy in the North American market, this timely paper ...

Recommended for you

Young adults found displaying symptoms of net addiction

October 17, 2014

In 2012, Allen Frances, MD, professor emeritus and former chair of the department of psychiatry at Duke University, cautioned that "Internet Addiction" could be the next new fad diagnosis, complete with "an exuberant trumpeting ...

Can 'love hormone' oxytocin protect against addiction?

March 19, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at the University of Adelaide say addictive behaviour such as drug and alcohol abuse could be associated with poor development of the so-called "love hormone" system in our bodies during early ...

Nicotine vaccine prevents nicotine from reaching the brain

May 2, 2012

If smoking a cigarette no longer delivers pleasure, will smokers quit? It's the idea behind a nicotine vaccine being created by MIT and Harvard researchers, in which an injection of synthetic nanoparticles prompts the immune ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.