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Ecstasy is Not For You
By JO1(SW) Scott Sutherland
Naval Station San Diego Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NWS) — Myth: Sailors who use ecstasy believe Navy drug screening labs don't test for ecstasy. Fact: labs test every urine sample for it. This is one of the many things Sailors learn about the "rave" drug, ecstasy, whenever they attend anti-drug training. The drug is so prevalent in society that many naval ships and stations have training specially tailored to ecstasy awareness.

Recently, USS Constellation's (CV 64) Drug and Alcohol Prevention Advisors (DAPA) and representatives of its Counseling and Assistance Center (CAAC) held ecstasy awareness training for crewmembers.

They presented five main objectives to the crew, all centered around education and training about ecstasy, an amphetamine-based drug with hallucinogenic properties. The objectives were:

- Identify the forms of ecstasy, how it is used, and who is abusing it;

- Explain the effects of ecstasy abuse;

- Cite the federal law and Navy policy concerning ecstasy;

- Cite ecstasy abuse health consequences;

- Identify behavioral and physical symptoms of ecstasy abuse.

The objectives are covered in the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Management Supervisors (ADAMS) facilitator training, a Navywide program given to all supervisors and seniors, E-5 to 0-4. DAPA's Navywide instruction on drug and alcohol programs, OPNAVINST 5350.4C, states that commanding officers are encouraged to select qualified personnel for training and certification.

ADAMS facilitator training is a five-day course followed by certification. The DAPA representatives on "Connie," AKC(AW/SW) Emmanuel Qualls and MMCS(AW/SW) Donald Bell, agree that their main focus was simple -- educating Connie Sailors about the harmful effects of ecstasy. Because of its hallucinogenic properties, ecstasy is harmful to the body. And due to the Navy's zero tolerance against drugs of any kind, ecstasy is also equally harmful to your Navy career.

"If we can educate and train our people about the effects of ecstasy," said Qualls, a native of Monroe, La., "then we could stop its abuse. We want to open Sailors' minds, and get the word out that drugs are not allowed in the Navy. We helped educate supervisors on how to look for ecstasy. If the supervisor sees a baby pacifier or athletic mouthpiece on a Sailor's necklace, it could get the supervisor thinking that there's a problem." Ecstasy users are often seen with these items because users often involuntarily grind their teeth while under the drug's influence.

Within the past several years, there has been a rise in positive drug test results for ecstasy among U.S. service members. Within the Navy, there were 34 individuals identified as positive for ecstasy in FY98. By FY00, this number increased to 238 individuals.

Master At Arms 2nd Class(SW) Alfonso Cordova of Los Angeles runs Connie's urinalysis program. He said ecstasy has joined marijuana and cocaine as the most prevalent drugs that come up positive on samples sent to Navy Drug Screening Labs (NDSLs).

The drug, which can cost about $45 a hit, or $185 for five hits, is most popular in Europe and the United States, where it has for years fueled psychedelic "rave" parties where users bask in its effects, which are said to be deep relaxation, increased sensation, euphoria and feelings of closeness to others. Rave parties are frenzied affairs that play loud "techno" music with light shows, smoke, fog machines and fireworks. Raves often have heavy cover charges and high security to spot law enforcement officials.

Qualls said, "In the rave environment, the temptation of ecstasy will come down on you. I ask you, `What is the attraction?' It's just like what we tell Sailors about liberty in Tijuana (Mexico). After dark, chances increase that something bad might happen."

"ADAMS training is for people in the first line of defense," Bell said. "Lots of Connie Sailors haven't had ADAMS. It's an awareness, education, prevention and deglamourization campaign."

Connie's CAAC representative, OSC(SW) Douglas Brown of San Diego added, "If I was talking to a group of Sailors, my first point would be to explain that ecstasy is a form of methamphetamine with hallucinogenic effects. It is, by nature, a dangerous chemical, capable of causing strokes, kidney damage and fatalities, even in first-time users."

Asked what they'd do if a Sailor comes across the quarterdeck on their watch, and the Sailor is wearing a baby pacifier or athletic mouthpiece, Qualls and Bell had two different answers.

Qualls said, "I'd hold him there, write down his name, and then pass the information on to his supervisor. By coming across the quarterdeck with drug paraphernalia, he just stereotyped himself."

"I'd ask him, `What are you doing with a pacifier?'" said Bell. "It's the first common-sense question to ask. His response would trigger a mechanism in me, and I could tell by his mannerisms that something's not quite right here. Then I'd bring it up to the command DAPA."

Last fall, former Constellation crewmember Lt. Cmdr. Robert Loeh was sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling ecstasy and other drugs to undercover officers.

"The Loeh case set no precedent, but it does set an example," said Qualls. "It's the same rule for everybody. No Sailor is exempt. "Maybe Connie Sailors will take something positive from that.".red ribbon icon

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