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We Asked a Dealer to Separate Truth from Fiction in Toronto's New Anti-Drug PSA

And it's closer to truth than fiction.
January 13, 2015, 3:22am
Photo via Toronto Crime Stoppers/YouTube.

Do you really know what you're taking? Toronto Crime Stoppersrecently unveiled a new anti-drug campaign titled Cookin' with Molly and the message is clear: there's a whole lot of shit in your pills that your dealer isn't telling you about. In the wake of a last year's tragic deaths at VELD Festival in Toronto, local officials are looking for ways to keep the problem from happening again. Most drug-related fatalities are caused in part by improper usage, often connected to impurities or unknown substances in doses of recreational drugs.

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The PSA illustrates how those alien chemicals are introduced into batches of ecstasy in scenes that would make Walter White jealous. Conceived by advertising agency DDB Canada, Cookin' with Molly avoids the outlandishness of Electric Zoo's now infamous informational video, and stays well clear of the dry, unrealistic videos of old that most government advisories are known for. Craig Ferguson is a senior art director at DDB Canada and lead creative on the campaign.

"The greatest challenge we faced was the ability to speak to young people about the topic of drugs," Ferguson tells THUMP. "We felt a heavy-handed 'don't do drugs' message would only deter our target audience from engaging with our communications. How could we do it in a way that they would listen? Ultimately, the answer was simple enough: Talk to them. Don't judge them."

Ferguson says they worked closely with Toronto Crime Stoppers, the city's police, media and public joint initiative, to assess the problems with the country's illegal drug supply. "The likelihood of finding meth in [ecstasy/MDMA] was based on a fairly recent Toronto Police seizure of 36,000 pills, 26,000 of which contained meth," he explains.

We reached out to an MDMA dealer in Canada to further help us separate truth from fiction in the PSA. He spoke with us under the condition of anonymity. Let's call him "Chris."

The primary message in Cookin' with Molly is that MDMA pills contain other drugs. In the video, both meth and bath salts are added to the mix. Chris says that while not all pills will contain these drugs, it's more common than you would think. "It's totally true," he confirms. "But speed [amphetamine] is more often used. It makes pills seem more potent to the user and is cheaper, so you can use less MDMA crystal."

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Unlike the scene in the video, dealers will often only add one additional drug. "Bath salts are rarely used in conjunction with meth and MDMA in the same pill," Chris says, though he admits that more than one additive is possible. "It's those freak cases where things get especially dangerous.

Chris laughed at the depiction of fillers and signature colouring shown in the video. "Filler substances are usually harmless," he says. "Sometimes dealers will use sugar in their gel caps and you definitely need them in press caps. They won't always be something you'd want to ingest large quantities of, but they're by no means [the worst] things in pills."

The unappealing chemical byproducts of producing "pure" MDMA itself weren't something he felt shouldn't be ignored however, and from experience he assured us that a real life lab would be much, much dirtier. The part where the cook eyeballs his measurements though? That was spot on.

Cookin' with Molly doesn't go over the top and it doesn't bore you. Despite being a parody of an actual drug dealer, the video is believable and, according to Chris, pretty accurate. While it could have certainly shown things in a much darker light, trade-offs clearly had to be made to ensure that the overall message was clear: Your "pure" MDMA definitely isn't.

No PSA, however gruesome, is going to stop some people from doing drugs, but knowledge about the risks can save lives. If we learned one thing from 2014's drugs tragedies, it's that smart prevention strategies like these go further than scare tactics ever will.

Ziad Ramley is pure on Twitter.