Ecstasy is the hottest illegal drug on the market. And along with its popularity come copycat drugs, which can be lethal. Enter DanceSafe, a self-described harm-reduction organization whose goal is to promote health and safety within the rave and nightclub community. The nonprofit group sends volunteers to rave parties to test pills that users may think to be Ecstasy, but in fact may be something even more dangerous. But no matter what the results are, testers always hand back the pills to the individual. Law enforcement agencies and parents are critical of DanceSafe, saying that volunteers are not licensed technicians and that illegal drugs should be confiscated—not handed back to users. Emanuel Sferios, national director of DanceSafe and Steve Casteel, chief intelligence officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration joined us in a chat. Below is a transcript.
Moderator at 3:58pm ET
Welcome Emanuel Sferios.
Emanuel Sferios at 4:00pm ET
Hi, I'm Emanuel Sferios, I'm the founder and executive director of DanceSafe. We're a national nonprofit harm-reduction organization, promoting health and safety in the rave and nightclub community. One of the health issues among youth, not just in the rave community but youth everywhere, is drug use. We utilize a peer-based prevention program along with a harm-reduction strategy, which provides non-abstentionist, lifesaving information to those who make the choice to experiment with drugs.
reyna from saturn.connectexpress.com at 4:01pm ET
What positive feedback have you received from this program? Have anyparents supported you? What about police?
Emanuel Sferios at 4:01pm ET
We have received enormously positive feedback from every media article about us. We have spoken in high schools, we have parents who have thanked us; and in every city in which we operate, we have had the full cooperation from police, who themselves are safety-minded.
We have spoken to police at our booths, while we were testing pills, who have granted the users amnesty-- meaning that they have agreed not to arrest users who seek out our services, because they recognize that fake Ecstasy tablets, like those containing PMA,are far more dangerous, and our program is a public health service that saves lives.
Moderator at 4:03pm ET
What has been the response from clubgoers to your organization?
Emanuel Sferios at 4:03pm ET
We receive approximately 200 thousand hits a day to our website. About ten thousand unique visitors a day. Since we started, approximately a year and a half ago, we have received over ten thousand e-mails, and approximately eight or nine of those have been polite e-mails saying that they think our program is misguided. And the rest have been thankful of what we do, many of whom have said they can't believe that a private organization like us has to resort to fund-raising to do what the government themselves ought to be doing.
alex sawyer from dc.ziplink.net at 4:04pm ET
In what cities do you have active programs?
Emanuel Sferios at 4:05pm ET