The Central Alberta AIDS Network Society’s safe drug use blitz reached more than 500 partygoers during its seven-day push in Red Deer bars.
The campaign wrapped up on Wednesday night after NightReach Workers spent the last seven evenings talking to the bar crowd about preventing overdosing and the dangers of ecstasy.
The CAANS society works from a framework that the “just say no to drugs” campaign does not work, says executive director Jennifer Vanderschaeghe.
“If you are going to use, let’s talk about how to do it smarter,” she said. “We come from a really non-judgmental place.”
Vanderschaeghe said the patrons were open to hearing their message of “If you’re going to use, use safely.”
Several deaths in Alberta and in British Columbia were linked to ecstasy laced with the toxic drug paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA) in the last few months.
Most recently, the death of a 38-year-old Red Deer man was linked to tainted ecstasy.
PMMA is five times more toxic than regular ecstasy cut with the usual methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). It is impossible to tell the difference between the two by looking at the drug, which is usually sold in pill forms.
“When people (are) buying ecstasy these days, they don’t really know what they are getting,” said Vandershaeghe.
CAANS is involved in NightReach, health promotion, prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, community action and harm reduction.
Delving into the bar scene is not their usual practice.
However, Vanderschaeghe said this was an opportunity to have conversations with users and non-users about drug safety.
NightReach workers heard there has been a bit of a market change in the branding of the street drug ecstasy and PMMA.
Vanderschaeghe said people are starting to market MDMA as MDMA rather than ecstasy, which means people will ultimately get to a place where they can recognize that buying ecstasy is a different drug all together than the traditional ecstasy has been.
“(This will) ultimately help when people are making decisions about what they are going to use,” she said.
“For example, if I wanted to use MDMA (ecstasy), I would actually buy MDMA instead of buying ecstasy and hoping that it’s MDMA.”
Vanderschaeghe said the campaign was successful in that patrons and bar owners were receptive.