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Drugs

It’s Official: VICE's Reporting Makes Readers Take Drugs More Safely

A study found that a VICE headline about fake MDMA encouraged people to test their drugs.

by Max Daly
15 September 2019, 10:48pm

Image: Getty Images

This article originally appeared on VICE US

A VICE headline has been scientifically shown to trigger clubbers into making safer drug-taking choices.

Researchers at New York University wanted to see if a “highly trusted” source on drug issues could influence people’s behaviour.

Last year, of 1,000 people turning up at EDM parties in New York, half were shown the headline, "Study Finds Many New York Clubgoers Are Unknowingly Using Bath Salts Instead of MDMA" and told it had been published in VICE. The other half were not. They were then asked a series of questions about using MDMA.

In a paper published this week in the Journal of Substance Use, researchers said that after being shown the headline, which originally appeared on this 2016 VICE story, more clubbers reported they would either get their MDMA tested or avoid the drug altogether. A single study is a single study, but it’s a nice reminder that getting accurate info out there can lead to better decision-making and more cautious, educated drug use.

Lead researcher Joseph Palamar, an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at New York University Langone Medical Center, said, “These results do indicate that knowledge about ecstasy being adulterated may in fact lead to increased desire to test ecstasy before use."

“We found that people who hadn’t used ecstasy recently were more likely to report no future intention to use again after viewing the headline, but this did not affect recent users’ intention to use," he added. "However, recent ecstasy users who viewed the VICE headline were more likely to report intention to test their ecstasy before using.”

Palamar said he selected a VICE headline for the study because VICE is a trusted source for drugs information. “Although our research on bath salts and MDMA was covered by major sources such as Newsweek, we specifically chose VICE because it is a source that is highly trusted by young people. I hope VICE continues to cover important research studies and we’re learning that viewing such published results may in fact affect intention to cease use or to use in a safer manner.”

A body of research carried out between 2015 and 2017 revealed that significant amounts of MDMA being used in America contained different drugs, mainly the synthetic cathinone (a group of drugs adjacent to amphetamines) called methylone, also known as "bath salts".

A similar drug to MDMA, methylone isn't dramatically more risky than MDMA, but taking any drug unwittingly is unsafe. (This is our place to remind you, dear reader, that no drug use is completely safe). You most likely would not want to think you're buying MDMA and end up with methylone. Unlike MDMA, it is more compulsive, kind of like cocaine: you just want to do more and more, so it ends up being more peaky and users end up tweaking more. Users also report that methylone makes the heart beat faster, increases sweating, and causes harsher comedowns than molly.

A series of drug tests carried out on clubbers this year by Palamar’s research team is expected to find less contamination of MDMA and higher purities—likely a reflection of a global trend of rising MDMA potency.