Warning flier about taking Ecstasy -- a lifesaver or a how-to guide?

Sex education. Drug use. When does educating young people about such issues cross the line and become a how-to guide?

Witness the L.A. County Public Health Department’s (well-intended?) warning to Ecstasy users to “stay away” from the popular rave party drug. This flier also, rightly or wrongly, offered safety tips on what to do if you do take the drug so you don’t die. Some of the advice: Take frequent breaks, stay hydrated and don’t mix Ecstasy with alcohol or other stimulants.

One politician, L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, felt the flier crossed the line in “counseling young people on the use of the illegal drug Ecstasy,” he said in a statement.

Now the flier will be revised and likely some of the information will be removed. The flier, incidentally, was created after a 15-year-old died of an overdose last June at a rave concert. Here’s a Los Angeles Times story that explains what happened and how Ecstasy affects people.


The reaction to the flier isn’t much different than what happens when schools or public health agencies are tasked with teaching sex education. Are they encouraging people to have sex if they explain what safe sex is and show them what condoms are? Or are they providing education that could save people from getting AIDS or sexually trasmitted diseases?

Every public health agency walks a fine line when it comes to education on highly charged issues like drugs and sex. But accurate information does need to come from a credible authority.