Gainesville Pills

Lt. Bart Knowles, narcotics commander for the Gainesville Police Department1, ranked Ecstasy as Gainesville's second most popular drug - behind cocaine and tied with marijuana.

The drug, which was first made illegal2 in 1985, is routinely bought and sold around town by people between ages 16 and 25, he said.

Based on interviews with students and local arrest statistics, Knowles said the drug has become "very apparent in the clubs downtown," even going so far as to call the city's late-night music scene a "conduit" for the drug's use.

photo by Nicole Safker

However, Capt. Jeff Holcomb of the University Police Department3 said he thinks Gainesville's X usage is minimal.

His department, which covers the UF campus, has filed no charges of Ecstasy possession since the beginning of 2006. There are no field tests used in Gainesville for its use.

"Is it being used? Probably so," said Holcomb. "I'd like to think it's not very widespread."

The results of anonymous surveys released by the UF-sponsored GatorWell Health Promotion Services seem to back him up.

The drug's peak of popularity was in 1999, when 4.3 percent of UF students, or about 2,100 people, reported they had tried it in the last month1.

Back then, Gainesville was considered by some to be a center for all-night dance parties, or raves, said Tavis Glassman, the coordinator of alcohol and other drug prevention for UF's Student Health Care Center.

"I don't consider Gainesville the party mecca of the state," he said. "So you know when people were coming here to rave, something was going on in terms of the drug culture."

The popularity of the drug seemingly tapered off in following years. GatorWell's 2006 survey estimated that only about 250 UF students had tried the drug within 30 days - about a tenth of 1999's figures.

Some Gainesville users, however, believe Ecstasy's status is still strong or may see a comeback.

"It's a college town," said Sam*, a UF political science student and Ecstasy user. "Kids just like getting f---ed up."


1 The Gainesville Police Department.

2 See the Drug Enforcement Administration's information sheet on Ecstasy.

3 The University of Florida Police Department.

4 See the GatorWell study (PDF).

* Source's name has been changed.