Lost in the Shuffle
Unfortunately, the issue of safe drug use has been largely ignored, thanks to the avalanche of prohibitionist propaganda which implies that such a thing is impossible. As a result, many users lack education about the substances they use, and make errors regarding dosage, setting, or nutrition that lead to potential dangers, both mental and physical. A big part of personal responsibility is being knowledgeable and safe about drug use.
Thankfully, the Internet has become a treasure trove of detailed information about how to safely and effectively use psychoactive drugs, as well as the effects you can expect from the drugs. Erowid offers data on a huge number of drugs, both legal and otherwise, along with experience reports from users to help you prepare for your drug use. MDMA.nu is recommended for Ecstasy users; The Psychedelic Experience FAQ for psychedelics; and the Cannabis/Marijuana FAQ for marijuana.
Harm reduction has become a buzzword in the past several years, as it represents a potential alternative to the failed "Just Say No" style of drug education. At the same time, it is not incompatible with prohibition; the groups working in harm reduction are not necessarily "pro-drug" or even anti-prohibition. They simply want to help save lives and (as the name implies) reduce harm to users.
People, and especially individuals in the 18 - 24 age bracket, are continuing to use more illegal drugs each year, despite ever-tightening anti-drug legislation. Thanks to the lack of education about those drugs, they often use them unsafely. What's more, since all illegal drugs must be purchased on the black market, users are never assured of purity, or even that what they purchased was actually what they asked for! This is especially true of Ecstasy. Ecstasy is quite safe by itself, but adulterants such as DXM and PMA (both legal) are often found in pills sold as Ecstasy, and both can cause death even in moderate dosages.
Enter the harm reduction groups. The most prominent of these is DanceSafe, who offers pill testing services to help screen for dangerous adulterants. Other groups focus on needle-exchange programs to help prevent the spread of disease.
Harm reduction is an approach that works.