RAVE PARTY DRUG GOES UNDERGROUND IN CAPITAL REGION Ecstasy Pills Are Still Popular at Small Social Gatherings, Local Authorities Say. From midnight to morning, Bryan Oley worked rave parties, educating dancers on the dangers of Ecstasy. He passed out pamphlets and bottles of water and tested pills for evidence of unwanted chemicals. Rave parties have gone the way of the disco in the Sacramento region, drug agents and Oley say, but they also concur that Ecstasy, which came into public view under flashing rave-party lights, remains popular. Oley, co-founder of Sac Haven, the local chapter of the national DanceSafe organization, said he has seen the drug move underground to small social gatherings. It's also prevalent in dance clubs and strip clubs, said Gordon Taylor, special agent in charge of the Sacramento Drug Enforcement Administration. "People take it and talk to each other; it's a very social drug," Oley said. "It's the standard 'I'm on something and I'm going to have a deep conversation with you' type thing." Agents used to wave glow sticks to a techno beat to gather intelligence at raves, Taylor said. Today, they no longer monitor the dance floor, but they still tango with dealers. Most recently in Roseville, they arrested a man who boasted of selling Ecstasy out of the trunk of his BMW at strip clubs. "Over last year, and most recently, it seems like Ecstasy is abundantly available," Taylor said. "It gives us a reason for concern." John Pok Kim, 26, was the man who sold agents 1,004 Ecstasy pills and gave them "free samples" of cocaine, court documents state. Four other people from Sacramento and Rancho Cordova in their 20s were also arrested on charges related to trafficking 7,400 Ecstasy pills. Taylor said that bust marked the end of a lull since a 2001 sting. Then, agents seized a half-million Ecstasy pills in an investigation that traced suppliers in Belgium to buyers in a bathroom in Arden Fair mall. The prevalence of Ecstasy, which pumps the pleasure-inducing chemical serotonin into the brain, may differ in Sacramento compared to the rest of the nation, Taylor said. DEA officials in Washington, D.C., released an analysis earlier this month saying a May 2004 Ecstasy bust wiped out 15 percent of the U.S. supply. The drug's price went up in many cities. But the price hikes and drug-purity dips seen in Miami, New Orleans, Houston and Los Angeles do not appear to have reached the Sacramento market, Taylor said. Here, a "boat" - or 1,000 Ecstasy pills - sells for half of what it did about four years ago. "When you have a large supply of a drug, then perhaps not as many people using it, the sellers are going to lower price to stay in business," Taylor said. "That could be happening." Oley said the media glare on deadly overdoses and a law enforcement crackdown on the drug contributed to the death of mass rave parties. He said the parties, once large events in rented spaces, still take place in homes and getaway cottages. "The best analogy is a wave," he said of the rave circuit. "It hit its peak and came back down. The water is still there." Oley said the national Dance Safe organization was founded on the premise of "harm reduction," assuming people could not be stopped from taking the drug. The organization wanted to help users avoid heat exhaustion and bad pills. Researchers also warn that the drug can cause depression, memory loss and brain damage. DanceSafe sponsored pill testing and told users whether pills with a particular logo - like Batman or Playboy or Popeye - included unwanted chemicals. Now, lacking raves to monitor or funds to test pills, Oley said his main function is to moderate a Web site that hosts discussions about drugs. Oley said he is worried that the drug's retreat to private spaces may leave people who have bad reactions afraid to call paramedics for fear of criminal liability. Since raves ended in the Sacramento area, Taylor said he has heard of fewer Ecstasy-related deaths. One did happen in a Bay Area home last April, he said. Irma Perez, an eighth-grader from Belmont, took the drug one night during a sleepover with friends, according to Javier Peqa, the special agent in charge of the San Francisco DEA office. Perez, 14, got a headache and began to vomit. Instead of calling for medical help, Perez's friends called the 17-year-old drug dealer. He recommended that she smoke marijuana to calm down. Perez moaned and said, "I think I am going to die." Within days, she did. Five people who contributed to Perez's death face criminal prosecution.