Ecstasy Tablets

The Dangers of Super Strength Ecstasy

In the UK, the number of people dying every year after using Ecstasy is increasing. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the numbers have risen from eight in 2010 to 43 in 2013. In the last few years the numbers have continued to rise. In 2018, 92 people died from ecstasy or MDMA, compared to 56 people in 2017.

Pure Ecstasy?

One of the reason for this large rise in fatalities has been attributed to the increasing purity of the drug, meaning that the chances of overdosing on it are much higher than ever before.

Huge differences have been found in MDMA levels between pills. In 2009 it was estimated that, on average, an ecstasy pill contained between 20 and 30mg of MDMA (the active ingredient in Ecstasy). in 2014, that figure has shot up to 100mg. Drug expert, Fiona Measham, estimates that an “acceptable” dose of the drug at one time would only be 70-75mg.

Another recent formulation study, this time conducted by Drugscope, an independent centre of drug expertise, found that the levels of MDMA in a sample pill contained two and a half times the “standard” dose of MDMA.

Recent tests at the Warehouse Project (WHP), a club in Manchester reveal that purity levels are at their highest for the drug for over 10 years. The club recently sent a tweet warning of the problem of high purity ecstasy in circulation, telling clubbers to be careful.

However the upwards trend continues. Ecstasy tablets seized at festivals in the UK in 2018 have been reported as containing over 200mg of pure MDMA.

Increase in Ecstasy Deaths

The recent increase in Ecstasy-related deaths was at first attributed to a potentially lethal drug called PMA, which is often sold as MDMA. However recent inquests seem to suggest that PMA may not be to blame, instead it’s the increasing availability of super-strength Ecstasy. In one case, the drug was found to be 91% pure when a 0.5g tablet was analysed.

The dramatic increase in the purity of Ecstasy that is appearing in the UK has been attributed to changes in manufacturing processes adopted by the suppliers of these Class A drugs. Producers have found new ways of making the drug which mean that the product has been “improved” beyond all recognition.

A worry is that older, infrequent users of Ecstasy may be at risk from overdose as they could take too much of the drug, not realising that the drug is purer nowadays than many years ago.

Also, the existence of purer supplies of Ecstasy may see a renaissance in the popularity of the drug, attracting users of MDMA who were previously put off by worries about what other substances the tablets they were taking may have been were cut with.

The recent increase in Ecstasy-related deaths is very concerning. However, it’s important to understand the reasons behind this trend in order to find solutions.

The Role of Purity

As mentioned in the original article, increased MDMA purity in ecstasy pills and powder is a key factor. However, some additional points are worth noting:

  • Higher purity means it’s easier to unintentionally overdose. Someone used to lower purity pills may take a “normal” dose but actually ingest dangerous levels of MDMA.
  • Increased purity gives false confidence about ecstasy’s safety and may encourage higher or more frequent dosing. Historically, impure ecstasy forced users to be cautious.
  • With purer MDMA available, seasoned users are more likely to experience the desired empathogenic effects. This drives further demand for high purity pills and powder.
  • Clandestine labs are getting better at MDMA synthesis and tableting. Newer manufacturing techniques allow them to achieve purities over 90% consistently.

User Demographics

Another possible contributor is changing user demographics:

  • An ageing cohort of middle-aged users who began consuming MDMA decades ago may have increased risks today.
  • Some older users may wrongly believe their historical experience makes them immune to overdose. But decreased tolerance and health complications raise OD risk.
  • Younger novice users are initiating MDMA use. With no tolerance, even a standard dose could prove fatal.
  • Use outside nightlife is growing, including at home parties. This reduces safety, as alone users can’t be helped if they overdose.

Combining Drugs

Mixing MDMA with other substances also heightens overdose risks:

  • Alcohol remains the most common MDMA mixture, but dangerously exacerbates dehydration and hyperthermia.
  • Stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines taken with MDMA put extreme strain on the cardiovascular system.
  • Downers like benzodiazepines and opioids seem to counteract MDMA, tempting some users to dangerously megadose seeking desired effects.

In summary, several factors are likely contributing to rising ecstasy-related deaths – primarily increased MDMA purity in circulation. But changing user demographics and patterns of polydrug use also play a role. Harm reduction strategies should address all these areas. Most importantly, public education on proper dosing is critical, as purity seems set to remain high.

How Long Does Ecstasy Stay in Your System

Reduce Your Risk of Harm When Taking MDMA

There are some simple steps that any user of MDMA or Ecstasy should always follow. These considerations are even more important when the strength of Ecstasy is even stronger than in the past.

Take A Smaller Dose

Start slowly. A quarter of a pill or a dab of powder is a good start. Once the effects start to take hold you will be able to judge if you can take more. Remember that it can take up to 90 minutes for the drug to take effect. Don’t go too big, too fast.

You should never assume that you know the “right amount” to take, just because you have taken Ecstasy before. Pills often look the same and can have complete different ingredients. Don’t take that risk.

Don’t mix MDMA with other drugs

Mixing drugs is never a good idea and can lead to problems. MDMA should never be taken with other stimulants such as cocaine, which can increase the risk to your heart. Taking the drug with alcohol is also not a good idea as this can lead to dehydration and a dulling of the effects of Ecstasy (which can then lead you to taking too much.)

Ecstasy Drug Test Kit

If you are worried about a friend or family member, you may want to check that they are not using Ecstasy and putting their lives at risk. In this case, we recommend our Ecstasy Drug Test Kit. This is a urine drug test which will reveal in minutes if the person being tested has used Ecstasy recently

Photo Credit: DEA

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

You May Also Like: