Mary A. Castillo
The arrest of a suspected drug trafficker has not only ended a
two-month investigation by the Laguna Beach Police Department but has
also raised concerns about use of the drug Ecstasy in the community.
Matthew Havis Finley, 23, traveled to Laguna Beach to sell Ecstasy
last Wednesday evening, said Sgt. Jason Kravetz.
Authorities seized 1.18 pounds of Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, that
would have yielded approximately 5,400 pills and was worth $150,000.
This is the first time Finley, a biochemistry student at UC Santa
Barbara, has been arrested.
After Finley was taken into custody, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s
Department searched his apartment in Goleta where they found narcotics
paraphernalia and chemicals used to manufacture Ecstasy. They also
discovered a large amount of marijuana plants, opium and opium poppies.
The department is still collecting evidence from Santa Barbara,
Finley, whose parents posted his bail, will be charged in Orange
County. He is expected to be charged with transporting, possession and
possession for sales of a controlled substance.
Ecstasy has quickly risen to replace heroin as the drug of choice
among young abusers, authorities say.
According to a study published last year by the Partnership for a
Drug-Free American, Ecstasy use has increased among youth ages 12 to 18
by 71% since 1999. Commonly used at all-night raves, the drug is prized
among users for its ability to lower inhibitions.
Police have seen more of the drug in Laguna Beach, Kravetz said,
adding that Ecstasy attracts users because it comes in colorful pills,
unlike “dirty drugs” such as heroin or crystal meth.
But the drug can be just as dangerous, if not more so, because of its
appearance and easy availability, said Jay Bruhl, director of the
behavioral medicine unit at South Coast Medical Center.
“The affects last from three to six hours and a dose is only three to
four pills,” he said.
The drug is commonly sold in bottles of 30 pills for as little as $40
per pill, making it significantly cheaper than cocaine and meth, he said.
“The people we see are younger people who are using it in combination
with alcohol, cocaine and other drugs,” Bruhl said.
Ecstasy alone can disturb the brain’s production of serotonin, which
regulates blood flow and heart rate. Chronic abuse, Bruhl said, damages
the liver, heart and brain.
Although Bruhl has not seen a significant rise in patients who seek
treatment exclusively for Ecstasy abuse, he doesn’t rule out the
possibility of seeing an increase in the future.