Talk of the Town - Party safe May 29 2003

The music thumps and bumps. Men mingle and hug one another, their shirts tugged through belt loops and water bottles tucked into their back pockets. Their eyes are wide and their pupils dilated. It's Saturday night, and the party has started.

Randy Bonner sits alone at a table behind a row of fliers and signs. But he's not some poor guy who couldn't find a date. He's here to educate anyone willing to listen about the dangers of ecstasy and other club drugs.

Bonner is a member of the Atlanta chapter of Dancesafe, a national harm reduction organization that promotes health and safety in the nightclub and rave communities. He came across Dancesafe's materials randomly while surfing the Net, and began printing out materials and leaving them at bars. Eventually, Randy was contacted by the organization and was trained last fall so he could found a chapter in Atlanta.

"Instead of telling people drugs are bad, we try to explain the consequences of drugs," he says. "We never say a drug is bad or imply a drug is good. We give information."

The organization has suffered some criticism from those who feel that their adulterant screening program — where samples from ecstasy pills are tested onsite to find if they contain other substances — is enabling drug use. But Bonner and other members of Dancesafe see it another way.

"Most recreational drug users are non-addicted and don't know anything about the drugs they're using," Bonner says. "[Other programs] increase drug curiosity. We are telling people the truth and killing the curiosity."

For more information, visit www.dancesafe.org/atlanta.