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Editorial: Dangerous drug deserves serious attention from parents

In the aftermath of two alarming drug deaths, officials in New Hampshire and beyond have reacted in a variety of ways, some more useful and practical than others. Most encouraging was a simple, proactive step taken by Pembroke Academy last week.

At issue are the overdose deaths of two New Hampshire college students, both attributed to the drug MDMA, also called Molly. Nineteen-year-old Plymouth State University student Brittany Flannigan of Derry died after overdosing at a Zedd concert at the House of Blues club in Boston. And 20-year-old Olivia Rotondo of the University of New Hampshire died after a similar overdose at the Electric Zoo Festival in New York City. There were also two non-fatal overdoses at a recent concert in Boston. And across the country, at lest seven people have died at such shows since March.

The drug, particularly when taken while dancing in a hot environment, can cause quick dehydration and sometimes hyperthermia. It’s particularly dangerous when taken in high doses or combined with alcohol – or when multiple small doses are taken in a short period of time to maintain the high it produces. High levels of MDMA in the blood stream can increase the risk of seizures. What’s the appeal? It causes a relatively quick high and gives some users a sense of feeling extra alert, with an enhanced sense of touch – but can also create feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression and memory difficulties, sometimes lasting for days.

In response to the death of the New Hampshire students, the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester canceled an electronic dance music show scheduled for later this month. Other music venues are intensifying their searches of patrons. The police are stepping up arrests. Canceling concerts seems like a short-term response to an issue that really calls for better long-term education efforts about the serious risks of MDMA from parents and schools alike. (A more practical move from concert venues might be this: making typically expensive bottled water free and easily available during shows that draw young crowds.)

What parents and teachers are up against, in addition to old-fashioned peer pressure, is the glamorization of the drug by mainstream recording artists such as Kanye West, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus, who have all cited MDMA in their lyrics. So Pembroke’s email home to parents last week was smart and well-timed. Arming adults with enough facts to conduct a useful conversation with their kids before they’re tempted to experiment with something dangerous is a common-sense effort that other districts should emulate.

All the news on this front is not bad. According to a 2012 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, American teenagers have actually been saying no to MDMA. From 2001 to 2012, the percentage of teens who have ever tried it dropped from 5.2 to 2 percent among eighth-graders, from 8 to 5 percent among 10th-graders, and from 11.7 to 7.2 percent among 12th-graders. From 2011 to 2012, declines were also seen among 10th- and 12th-graders asked if they’d used the drug in the past year or past month.

That trend may well continue if adults are spurred by the senseless deaths of two young New Hampshire students to set their own children on a safer path.

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