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Police nab suspected drug trafficker

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.

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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.

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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,

Kravetz said.

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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

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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.


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