Out There: High on nostalgia

If my daughter were old enough to take E now, I'd like it to be pure, have her know the risks involved. I'd be extremely worried if she was a teenager popping all those crappy pills
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Don, 43, is a graphic artist, Delilah, 30, a photographer's assistant. They live together in London with Delilah's ten-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.

Don: "We first got involved with the scene around 1990. I'd come from Sixties Mod culture, taking purple hearts and drinamyl, but I wasn't into the dance culture, and I'd read all these shock stories in the paper. I didn't like acid house music very much, either, so I was slow to respond. Anyway, a friend offered me a spare E capsule at pounds 9. We went to this fetish club, and all we did was giggle and shuffle around - it was a bit of a swingers' club, a funny vibe. But the E was very sensual, very sexy, and it gave me a lot of energy and confidence. When I first heard about it I thought it would be like acid, but it's a very different drug from anything else, and almost impossible to imagine if you've never taken it before.

"At first, all the tablets were pretty good, even in clubs you could be pretty sure of buying a good one. Now it's the other way round. About two years ago, these tablets called Snowballs came out, which were mainly MDA, a much harsher, more toxic drug than MDMA. And people were saying they were `blinding' - meaning excellent - because they were so strong. I think that's where it started going wrong, when the manufacturers realised they could get away with anything. Those kind of problems arise when there's no older, alternative group of people with drug experience. No informed drug culture, if you like."

Delilah: "I first tried E when my former boyfriend gave me half a pill. I was very apprehensive, because I've never been a druggy person. But since then I've done it many times. At one point, when Don and I first started seeing each other, we were doing five a night, twice a week. That's the most I've ever taken, during that period. Partly that was fuelling our romance - it's nothing like that at all now, mainly because today's pills are rubbish. We've made ourselves sick on just a tiny amount of what we used to take, so I know. But at that time, I was at the end of a 12-and-a-half-year relationship, with a child, so it probably helped me to get through that. I'm not a drug addict by any means, I don't drink at all, but it really helped us a lot; it consolidated our relationship."

Don: "For us, it wasn't just a dance drug. We always take it as a couple, partly because sex is so good on it, especially at the end of a night when we've been out and had a good time. We're not like 17-year-olds, who don't have anywhere to go when the club closes and have to stay out all night - I think that's why they end up taking more pills than they should - we could always go home, have a bath, chill out and talk."

Delilah: "And that helped me with the break-up; it was very therapeutic, and I think it allowed Don and I to be far more honest and less judgmental about the whole thing then we might have been. At one point I did feel quite spiritual about it."

Don: "At first you think, `Oh, the whole world could be like this...' But people have got all cynical about it, and the scene now has a vast cross section of drugs - speed, coke, smack, ketamine, booze, acid and so on. So the original excitement has changed, and the innocence can't be regained, and what's worse, the drugs seem really dodgy now. And as long as everyone's suspicious it won't change. You see, that's what was so wonderful about the very beginning: it was all about openness and trust, and that's been destroyed. Sure, some people will think I'm talking balls, but I'm 43, and I've been through the whole youth culture trip, from Mod, through the hippy thing, punk rock, everything. I've been going to pubs and clubs and gigs for years, and there were always fights when I was young, mostly alcohol induced, and that seems to have changed for good, although disappointment with drugs breeds irritation and moodiness, so it might eventually creep back."

Delilah (on her child): "If she were old enough to take it now, I'd be really worried. I'd like it to be pure, have her know the risks involved and how to avoid them, then I wouldn't have a problem with her using it sensibly. But I'd be extremely worried if she was a teenager popping all those crappy pills."

Don: "The way forward must be decriminalisation, like Holland. It's not a matter of hedonistic self-interest, it's to stop kids getting poisoned. Because some kids will take anything that's on sale. In fact, there's almost a junky attitude around at the moment, like: `I want to get fucked up no matter what'. In the past two months, I've tried ten types of Doves, and only one was the right thing. We've bought some really horrible drugs, where you have to battle to keep your eyes open. You get flu-like symptoms and stomach cramps, like strychnine. In fact, it's the exact opposite of how E should be"

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