The Drug Report

Facts about what can go wrong when people use drugs

  • The Best Drug Info Ever?

    A big part of my inspiration for The Drug Report was Beth Pearce's amazing film, VOICE OF THE VICTIMS: TRUE STORIES OF ECSTASY AND KETAMINE. The film simply lets the victims of drug tragedies tell their stories. It's real life, it's undeniable, and it's incredibly powerful. I'm sure Beth has saved many, many lives, and it is my hope that this blog will do so as well. To learn more about her film, go to Voice Of The Victims.


    A friend of mine likes to say, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts."

    When it comes to drugs, there are lots of opinions out there: Some think drugs are safe and fun, some think they're dangerous and frightening, and many think everything in between.

    But facts are facts, and when someone dies from drugs, or someone is murdered by a person who is on drugs, or is raped by someone who has given them drugs, that's just a fact. Drug users who actively promote drug use rail against these facts, and I expect they'll be commenting regularly on The Drug Report. But they can't change the facts.

Leah Betts

Posted by Childress on July 1, 2006

Dodgy wants me to link to an article on an Ecstasy site about the death of Leah Betts, a British teen who died after taking Ecstasy and (according to the site he wants me to link to) alcoholic drinks and pot on her birthday.

Here’s the pertinent information:

Leah begins to experience something that many drug users will run into at some point in their lives: Anxiety/panic…what LSD users might call a ‘bad trip’. She starts to worry that something is wrong. She’s heard about heatstroke deaths from the (often hysterical and inaccurate) popular press, and thinks that the way to stay safe while on MDMA is to drink plenty of water. Driven by panic and misinformation, she drinks water. A lot of water. According to her friends, nearly two gallons (7 liters) in about an hour and a half.

Now something really is wrong; Her head hurts, and she’s becoming unresponsive. All that water has diluted her blood; sodium levels are dropping (hyponatremia means ‘low salt’) and osmotic pressure on the rest of her tissues is increasing, forcing water into them. For many organs this wouldn’t be an overly dangerous situation; they would just swell up a bit. But the brain doesn’t have that option. Trapped within the skull, swelling increases pressure on the brain. Eventually, crushing pressures build up. Blood vessels begin to tear, and bleeding within her brain begins.

By the time they get Leah to the hospital, it’s too late. Her body is kept alive on a respirator, but there is massive, irrecoverable brain damage. Her parents are called in and given the bad news: There is no hope of recovery. The body is still alive, but her brain has been essentially destroyed. Leah’s funeral is held two weeks later.

The article he provided the link for goes on to blame the government for Leah’s death “repeatedly trying to hide the cause of such deaths in order to make drug use appear to just randomly kill people for no particular reason.”

I’m afraid that sounds a bit like drug paranoia.  Government agencies are trying to save lives; they’re just not very good at it.

The fact of the matter is that ecstasy can and has killed people by causing their bodies to overheat.  It happened to both Steven and Sara, whose tragedies are provided on the Voice of the Victims films.

Their organs melted, plain and simple. Steven’s father said his son’s body was still well over 100 degrees F several hours after he died.

The fact of the matter is also that ecstasy users have died by drinking too much water because they fear this sort of painful and tragic end.

I do agree with Dodgy that government drug education sites focus too much on the effects of the drug itself and don’t mention enough about the risks of water poisoning.  The Office of National Drug Control Policy doesn’t mention water poisoning at all on its section on ecstasy.

I won’t link to the site because it is a pro-drug site, but I will say that they did a good thing by raising awareness of drinking too much water.  I just think they dismissed the overheating deaths too easily and should have pointed out that risk too.

2 Responses to “Leah Betts”

  1. Dodgy said

    Thank you.

    Leahs death is precisely the sort of tragedy that could have been avoided if some harm reduction information had beeen available to her.

    By all means lets show the … instances where people die from ecstasy use, but lets not over hype it. Lets remain credible to the people we’re trying to reach, otherwise they won’t listen at all.

    And let us address those people who are going to take it anyway, and provide them with honest information on how to cut the risks asociated with ecstasy use ….

    Leahs death prooves that misinformation coupled with drug use is the most deadly combination of all.

  2. Childress said

    Of course the best way to cut the risks is to not take it. You can’t go running around saying “Just say No!” to potential users and expect to get anywhere. But many potential drug users when faced with the reality of death as a possible side effect will opt out. Not all, for sure. Young people have an odd view of risk and mortality. But some.

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