Student Filmmakers Sound Alarm on Dangers of Ecstasy

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Ten percent of our nation?s 12th graders have tried a drug that can make them vulnerable to crimes such as rape, affect their present and future health, or kill them.

The drug is ecstasy, and film

Ten percent of our nation?s 12th graders have tried a drug that can make them vulnerable to crimes such as rape, affect their present and future health, or kill them.

The drug is ecstasy, and film students not much older than those 12th graders at Rowan University are working in conjunction with advocacy organizations to lower those numbers and to potentially save lives.

The students are the driving force behind the film documentary ?Ecstasy - Dancing with Darkness,? which takes an intense, hard-hitting look at the drug that in 2001 sent close to 7,000 people to U.S. emergency rooms.

The students completed the project as part of their work in the Radio/TV/Film Department at Rowan University in 2003, but the end of the project was not the end of the mission behind the documentary. Recently, Rowan University?s Center for Addiction Studies has been distributing a shorter version of the film ? ?The Dangers of Ecstasy and Other Predatory Drugs? ? to all 52 New Jersey colleges, and the non-profit Security on Campus, Inc. is distributing the documentary nationwide.

?The film encourages students to think twice about drug use. From their friends they hear that it is ?fun? but never consider the risks or consequences. ?Dancing with Darkness? opens their eyes to the dark truth about club drugs,? said Catherine Bath, program director, Security on Campus, Inc.

The film visits dance party and rave scenes in Philadelphia; shows young people who know people who have had bad experiences with the drug or who have had bad experiences themselves; and captures what police, anti-drug advocates, emergency personnel and campus safety representatives have to say about the illegal substance. The facts they present are grim: youth as young as junior high school are using ecstasy, which is in a class with heroin, cocaine and LSD and often contains unknown additives; short-term effects can include depression, paranoia and amnesia while long-term effects can include brain damage and Parkinson?s disease.

Financed by a $24,000 grant from the Rowan University Center for Addiction Studies, the original 20-minute documentary provides a frank outlook at ecstasy and other club drugs. Noted Douglas Collier, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration who was interviewed for the film: ?When you say ecstasy, I think of a predatory drug. Young people think that ecstasy is a fun drug . . . The reality of this is it?s a deadly drug.?

Those involved in the production and distribution of ?Ecstasy - Dancing with Darkness? have seen the documentary make a difference and believe the collaboration between the film program, Addictions Center, Security on Campus and others has been critical in teaching youth about the drug. This is not the first time Rowan Radio/TV/Film students have focused on safety issues in collaboration with Security on Campus, the Pennsylvania-based organization that has been instrumental in fostering secure campus environments. To date, Rowan students have produced three other documentaries distributed by Security on Campus: ?Breaking the Silence,? about campus rape; ?Wasted Youth,? about binge drinking; and ?What Jeanne Didn?t Know,? about campus violence.

Ned Eckhardt is the Rowan Radio/TV/Film professor who oversaw the production of ?Ecstasy - Dancing with Darkness? and other documentaries in conjunction with Security on Campus, the non-profit founded by the parents of Jeanne Clery, the young woman who was raped and murdered in her dorm room at Lehigh University in 1986.

?Thousands of people have avoided tragedy and heartbreak because Security on Campus, Inc. has been able to convince young people to not make tragic security, drinking, drug or sexual mistakes,? Eckhardt said. ?A critical tool in this persuasion process is the ability to show a powerful video documentary that was made by young people for young people. I know Security on Campus, in backing our ecstasy production, has helped spare students and their families untold pain.?

Rowan faculty and staff are getting the ecstasy message out in other ways as well. Eckhardt presented student documentaries at the University Film and Video Association Conference at the University of South Carolina in July.

{Security On Campus, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit grass roots organization dedicated to ensuring campus safety. Co-founded in 1987 by Connie and Howard Clery following the murder of their daughter at Lehigh University, Security on Campus has built a solid relationship with campuses, law enforcement and legislators. To learn more about Security on Campus, visit www.securityoncampus.org. To learn more about Rowan University, visit www.rowan.edu.}

(NOTE: A copy of the video is available upon request. Call Ned Eckhardt at 856/256-4415.)

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