Lessons in tragedy

Death from taking illegal drugs should never be discounted. But it can be better understood and mitigated.

Nicole Ann Crowder’s mother may not be too concerned with whether her daughter died from Ecstasy itself, a reaction to some other substance in the pill, the ingestion of too much water in response to a bad trip or the failure of her friends to recognize a medical emergency and respond without fear of punishment. All she knows is that her 17-year-old daughter is dead.

But for the rest of us, there could be lessons in this tragedy beyond just the “drugs equal death” message that is now the subject of a national ad campaign. As writer Katje Sabin documents in “Drugs and death”, there are complexities and implications to Crowder’s death that go beyond the simplistic, alarmist portrayals in the mainstream media.

Crowder would probably be alive today if she didn’t take Ecstasy at a party in Yuba City three weeks ago. That’s the bottom line, and many are content to end the discussion there. Yet doing so may amount to a death sentence for some of the millions of people who use Ecstasy, deaths that might be prevented by better research, more discussion of harm reduction techniques, and incentives for even drug users to do the right thing, whether it be calling an ambulance when needed or not mixing the desired chemicals with other dangerous compounds.

It’s true that drugs can kill. But so can ignorance.