Prohibition Claims Another Victim

This is an unspeakably tragic story. As a parent, it is the kind of story that makes me fearful of the world that my children will inherit.

Canada: One Bad Choice Cost Her Life

Before moving to Grande Prairie from the Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo, Darren Steinke and his sister, Heather Work, would often get stern lectures from their mother about the dangers of doing drugs.

As an employee of Edgewood, an addiction rehabilitation centre in Nanaimo, their mother understood through her experiences there that doing drugs is a gamble – except the user never wins and everyone, including family and friends, loses.

It’s why Steinke, 29, cannot understand why his 25-year-old sister decided to take an ecstasy pill the night of Sept. 11, which ultimately led to her death two days later.

“Because of ( our mother ) we’ve always grown up anti-drug, she was always anti-drug and for whatever reason, she decided to try ecstasy,” he said.

On Sept. 11, a Friday, Steinke was in Whitecourt visiting his twin brother. Work was at her home in Grande Prairie’s east-side Creekside neighbourhood with her husband, four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

According to Steinke, it wasn’t long after taking the pill that Work developed arrhythmia, and blood stopped flowing to her brain, causing it to start swelling. She began coughing up blood, and then “she collapsed in her kitchen at about 3 a.m.”

Saturday morning he got a call from one of Work’s friends that she was in the hospital in a drug-induced coma and he immediately returned to Grande Prairie along with his brother. Their parents flew in from Nanaimo.

After attempting to control the swelling in her brain by cooling her body temperature, doctors informed the family early on the Sunday morning that there was no neurological activity and that she was most likely clinically brain dead before she arrived at the hospital.

“That’s how quickly it happened ( after ingesting the pill ),” Steinke said.

A toxicology test confirmed there was no evidence of alcohol or any other drugs in her system, Steinke said. However, he also said it is unknown at this time if the ecstasy was laced with any other chemical that may have played a part in her sudden death.

“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “They don’t know, and that’s one of the dangers of ecstasy.”

This is an unspeakably tragic story. As a parent, it is the kind of story that makes me fearful of the world that my children will inherit. The headline “One Bad Choice Cost Her Her Life” is right. But the bad choice was not taking the pill. That was a normal choice, one that millions of people make each week. The bad choice was not even Heather’s. It was our collective decision to prohibit drugs and thus to create incentives for them to be laced with or mixed with unknown substances.

The reaction that Heather had does not happen with MDMA (the ingredient in real “Ecstasy”). As her brother points out, one of the big dangers of synthetic drugs on the black market is that you simply do not know what is in them. I would be very, very surprised if the pill was pure MDMA. But if drugs were legal and sold to adults in regulated markets, Heather would have known exactly what was in that pill and it would not have been laced with anything. And she might well still be alive.



  1. Anonymous on

    I was taking ecstasy throughout high school and for almost a year after, with breaks of indeterminate length throughout. The beginning of the end were 13 pills which were without a doubt almost pure meth. Nothing but pushups, sit-ups and inexplicable inhumanity for two (?) weeks. I wanted to kill myself every time I came down from one. It’s been over two years and the cravings to return to arguably random “ecstasy” pills only lasted a month, the fear of what I could have become remains.

    A friend of mine was told by a resident of our city long ago that the person was cooking “E” pills meant specifically to do THIS to people. The second-hand information I was told was that he was trying to “fry people’s brains.” I should have believed him. This was during my two years and if not for already knowing they can contain nearly pure meth (and orally, it still feels like MDMA to a non-meth user – for about a week), I may have ended up MUCH worse off.

    I think her decision to take a pill of “E” was a bad one. I consider it a bad one and make no bones about it. Usually, you’re putting your life in the hands of people you wouldn’t even trust your pets with.

    She could have bought a kit of test reagents. These are not even a sure bet. I imagine it would take a certain amount of trial before a personal interpretation of the results becomes as reliable as the actual result of the test itself (the reagent shifts colours to form an *VAGUE* indication of contents.) She did make a bad decision, I hope nobody is pretending she wouldn’t regret it.

  2. Anonymous on

    Anyone who purchases manufactured drugs in the U.S. finds out after a while that there’s no telling what is really being purchased. Certain dealers are honest, some aren’t. Unfortunately, that’s the way an illegal market works.

    Govt officials apparently aren’t actually concerned with making people safer or they wouldn’t go after free test groups like that offer harm reduction services in clubs. Organizations that try to help the public out by testing their pills and telling them what’s in them have traditionally been harassed and threatened. Then the politicians and drug enforcement groups turn around and use cases of bad drug buys to demonize the drugs and promote their own careers??

    “I helped criminal groups successfully sell drugs cut with bad chemicals in them to the public by going after testing centers and by keeping regulation out of the picture. I deserve a promotion for showing you cases of teenagers and adults in emergency rooms due to swallowing pills with PMA, BZP, Methamphetamine, and Cocaine in them by accident.”

    I personally had a few bad experiences with pills that were cut with other drugs. When an experience that is supposed to last 6 hours turns into a 12 hour experience, there’s something else in the pill. When muscles lock up, eyes roll back, speech becomes incoherent, and friends think you’re fixing to die, there’s something else in the pill.

    The whole point of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) within the U.S. was to promote public health by making sure people knew what was in their food and medication — to regulate people selling such items to the public. It was a form of harm reduction. They could still buy fatty foods and beverages such a Coca Cola with cocaine in them but the idea was to let people know what they were really consuming.

    By keeping illicit drugs illegal and promoting a black market, the situation is worse than in the early 1900s… now people are arrested for trying to seek help figuring out what they’re putting in their bodies. They’re arrested for telling authorities they were sold bad pills. They’re harassed for helping people figure out what’s in their pills before they take them.

    This war on drugs has so many bad consequences and has harmed so many lives. It has dialed public safety back to the early 1900s — when people had no idea what was being sold to them. Then the authorities made things even worse by going after people who try to help.

    How politicians and drug enforcement officials can stand up on stages and say they’re helping the public is beyond me. They don’t deserve thanks… they don’t deserve admiration… they don’t deserve jobs.

    If you want real change, make yourself heard. Write politicians, write news agencies, distribute truthful information to others. Join activism groups that promote legalization and regulation. Donate money to them if you can’t donate time. Educate yourself and educate others.

    One person -can- make a difference. So what are you waiting for? Go make a difference!

  3. From the 70s on

    The RCMP have NO evidence of marijuana being LACED with meth or any other chemicals.

    The notion itself is preposterous for anyone who knows the black market (the RCMP claim to be experts). And Health Canada DAS (Drug Analysis Services) has the evidence to show this since they TEST ALL seized marijuana in Canada.

    According to Health Canada, during a 4 1/2 year period from 2003 to 2007, 14 samples of 194,454 tested samples contained both marijuana and meth (0.0072 percent of all samples). Cross contaminated as one DAS employee told me.

    DAS says they have NO CONTROL on how the RCMP interpret their test results. The previous Director of DAS told me on the phone in 2006 that it was an “urban myth” and that DAS had never never tested any “products”, DAS jargon for intentional laced marijuana with meth.

    If the RCMP want to tell the people they found 14 samples of 194,454 over 4 1/2 year period containing meth, go right ahead but I suggest few would be scared. I happen to know that the LIE really scares a lot of parents. Its not to inform us, its to scare us and it works really well and that is why I call it an insidious and sinister LIE.

  4. Brian Kerr on

    Doesn’t happen. No need to.

    I bet this stuff comes from a cop finding a joint on someone which may have some crack in it put there by the guy who rolled it.

    I do like the scare tactic form the RCMP(Nazis) all the better reason to legalize and regulate it. Don’t ya think.

  5. Anonymous on

    This story is tragic. I wonder what happened, was it a allergic reaction or bad drugs? If it was bad drugs, murder charges should be filed for the seller…if they even know where she got it. it should serve as a lesson to all of us though…if you make your own drug, you’ll at least know what is in it.

  6. Anonymous on

    I think the exact same thing when I read about ecstacy overdoses in the news. Just like that 14 yr old girl who OD’d at that dance party in west edmonton mall it could have been prevented. A drug dealer doesn’t care if you buy 1 or a 1000 pills they aren’t going to tell you how many to take or how to tell if your in danger of over dosing hell schools don’t even teach you that but they should!.

  7. David Dickinson on

    I have read in the newspapers that the RCMP has strong evidence that marijuana is often laced with addictive drugs. But the question is this: if marijuana is addictive, then why would it be necessary for dealers to lace marijuana with anything?

  8. From the 70s on

    I think the correct word is “contaminated” or “cut”. I doubt there has ever been any ecstasy ever “laced” with any other substance or drug to “addict” the children as the propaganda goes. However, any chemical drug in the illicit drug market can be “cut” for profit and/or “contaminated” due to lack of regulation.

    And who worries about contaminated alcohol ?

    The truth is that parents control the drug alcohol better than the Police control all the other illicit drugs and when the kids do get their hands on the drug alcohol, it is NOT contaminated like street ecstasy sometimes is.

    The soon to be law Bill C-15 does nothing about this, it leaves the drugs in all our schools as its been for decades (where fellow students sell to fellow students, not organized crime or gangs LACING marijuana with Meth/Chemicals to addict the children as the RCMP FEAR propaganda/LIE goes which Bill C-15 is based on, falsehoods that misrepresent the truth to both our lawmakers and us the public, it is against the law to spread false messages to alarm us).