Police have been predicting for years that popular club drug Ecstasy was on the way in. Now they want to shove it back out the door before more people end up like Michael Fox.
Fox, 19, who police believe overdosed on several drugs last weekend — including alcohol, Ecstasy, cocaine, Percodan and “Special K,” or ketamine — has become the latest poster child for national news media admonishing the dangers of drugs, particularly Ecstasy, and their connection to nightclubs and “raves.”
His death came amid reports from the State Police Narcotics Task Force and city police departments about a rapid increase in the past year of the use, sale and transportation of so-called “club drugs” like Ecstasy and Special K, a cat anesthetic.
Hartford and other New England cities have become frequent homes to parties and raves in recent years, which often bring club drugs in with them.
In 1995, the narcotics task force had just one drug-related case involving Ecstasy. Last year there were over 50 cases, said Lt. Dale Hourigan, the head of the task force.
For a drug that police admit is very difficult to detect both before and after it is ingested, such an increase is significant, police said.
Investigators said Fox took the drugs over the course of a night of clubbing in Hartford on Saturday before returning to his apartment in Boston by limousine early the next morning. He and a friend, Matthew Berry, 23, were found unconscious in Fox’s South End apartment Sunday afternoon. Fox died hours later, while Berry remained in the hospital late Thursday.
Toxicology tests may take several weeks to complete, so exactly how the drugs affected each man remains unknown.
But it is clear that despite recent high-profile drug busts, club drugs are arriving in Connecticut in increasing quantities.
Federal agents broke up a drug ring run by an Amsterdam native in October they said shipped thousands of grams of Ecstasy to New Haven last year.
In addition, recent Ecstasy-related arrests made by Connecticut police in Groton and Glastonbury indicate the drug has moved beyond the downtown clubs and into the suburbs.
The Internet has also become major player in the Ecstasy world, with sites offering rave info, tips on how to acquire the drug and information on its effects and potential dangers.
For example, one Dutch Web site offers a product called EZ Test, a liquid reagent the site says can determine whether unknown pills contain Ecstasy, speed or other drugs. But the site also says the product does not test for certain highly dangerous chemicals that have been sold as Ecstasy in the U.S.
And it is the potential for ingesting such chemicals passed off as Ecstasy that is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of using the drug.
“Not only can it be fatal to first-time users, you don’t even know with any certainty what ingredients you’re ingesting,” Hourigan said.
While Ecstasy and similar drugs are almost certainly present at Yale — based on word of mouth if nothing else — the Yale Police Department has yet to come into contact with them.
“We have different priorities,” Yale Police Chief James Perrotti said. “Unless it really comes to our attention, we’re not out there looking for it.”
But if individual officers become aware of illegal drug use, they will act accordingly, YPD Lt. Michael Patten added.
The illegality of drug use is hardly its greatest worry, as Fox discovered last weekend. Ecstasy itself has side effects similar to those of cocaine and amphetamines, including confusion, paranoia, depression and possible long-term brain damage, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse report.
“Many users tend to experiment with a variety of club drugs in combination,” the report reads. “Also, combinations of any of these drugs with alcohol can lead to unexpected adverse reactions and death.”
One rave-related Web site, miscon.net, posted a memorial page for Fox, a promoter and rave organizer who was also known as Tristan Trixx. While the site’s statement honored Fox’s memory, it also warned of the dangers of drug use.
“At the risk of appearing insensitive at this delicate time, we feel it’s appropriate to take this moment and state that we cannot and do not condone drug and/or alcohol abuse,” the site reads.
“We can only hope that the circumstances surrounding Michael’s tragic death will be a lesson to those that have, until now, thought themselves indestructible.”