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Scotland: Ministers looked at urine tests for Ecstasy

  1. Terrapinzflyer
    MINISTERS became so alarmed by Scotland's "Ecstasy boom" that they considered testing ravers' urine for traces of the dance drug.

    Previously classified government files reveal Scotland's leaders examined the idea of taking samples from revellers in a bid to reveal the scale of the problem.

    The scheme would have also seen volunteers from state-funded agencies "procuring" ecstasy tablets so they could be analysed by scientists.

    The project was shelved after government advisers raised fears that it would generate controversy. The documents, dating from the 1990s boom in dance culture, also reveal that ministers feared the popularity of Aberdonian electronic music group The Shamen, could encourage impressionable youngsters to dabble with mind-altering drugs.

    Ecstasy, or MDMA, was created by the German chemist, Anton Kollisch, as an appetite suppressant in 1912. Its symptoms, including feelings of euphoria, saw it become adopted as the drug of choice in Britain's burgeoning rave scene, which mixed pounding dance music with hypnotic light shows. By 1992 the class A drug became so widely used that Sir William Sutherland of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) penned a letter of warning to the Scottish Office which stated: "The Ecstasy boom is with us".

    Four years later ministers gave serious consideration to a proposed project, which was labelled as, "An investigation into the use of drugs at raves and dance events".

    The one-year study would have seen "urine samples of around 250 persons attending raves being screened". Those testing positive would have been analysed by biochemistry experts at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

    In addition, staff members of Crew 2000, a state-funded drugs advisory group, would "assist in procuring Ecstasy tablets and urine samples for analysis at raves".

    To facilitate this an application was made for a licence which would give dispensation for illegal substances to be transported from dance venues to laboratories. The cost of the scheme was estimated at £28,300.

    The project was abandoned after Scottish Office advisers expressed misgivings. A memo states: "If approved there seems to be little doubt that publication of the results will attract media attention. The government is against the setting up of drug testing centres, as in Holland, and we need to avoid the suggestion that we are encouraging this through the back door."

    In 1995, Ecstasy made the headlines when Essex schoolgirl Leah Betts died after taking the drug and a further three teenage revellers, Andrew Stoddart, Andrew Dick and John Nisbet, died at the Hangar 13 nightclub in Ayr.

    The venue was closed down and ministers faced calls to shut further venues across the country.

    Drug expert and former police officer Allen Morgansaid Ecstasy's rise was followed by a steep fall when the purity of the tablets decreased and other drugs became readily available.

    Published Date: 27 March 2011
    By Marc Horne



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