Huge Differences Found in MDMA Levels Between Pills  

MDMA has always been a dangerous and unpredictable drug to use. In recent years great strides forward have been made in trying to make sure that using the drug is safe. On-site testing for MDMA has been one such positive move, using MDMA identification Kits. However, researchers are now saying that, even with these safeguards in place, it is impossible to predict how the drug affects you.

A study has recently been carried out by Queen Mary University and researchers at St George’s University in London. The experts looked at 650 seized ecstasy tablets and analysed them to see just what was in each pill.

The results were alarming. Even in the same batch of pills, the amount of MDMA, the active drug in ecstasy, varied by more than 250%. As a secondary finding, the researchers also found that the speed it took the tablets to release the drug into the body, varied dramatically.

Experts identified two types of tablets – fast release ecstasy pills which disintegrated quickly, releasing 95% of the drug with 30 minutes. Other tablets, they found, were much slower to release the drug, taking up to 100 minutes.

It was the second type of tablet, the slower release ones, that caused the greatest concerns amongst drug experts. The risk with these types of ecstasy pills is that the user will take a second one before the effects of the first tablet have started kick in.

Drug analysts did not expect to see such big differences in levels of MDMA between the pills or the difference in speed with which the tablets disintegrated. These factors show that the drug will affect people differently and makes it hard to predict what will happen to a person that has taken the drug.

Luckily, the vast majority of ecstasy users come to no harm but it is clear that there is no easy way of predicting who will be at risk and how this can be avoided.

There has been a recent resurgence in popularity of the drug in Europe which has coincided with an increase in strength of tablets on the market.

The new research, couple with current trends, means that taking ecstasy is a lot riskier than many people might think. Users need to be aware and should be warned of these risks, say analysts.

The Dangers of MDMA Strength Inconsistencies

One of the biggest dangers highlighted by this research is just how unpredictable the strength of MDMA pills can be. Even within the same batch or “brand” of pills, the amount of MDMA can vary wildly from 30mg in one pill to over 150mg in another. This makes it nearly impossible for users to accurately gauge their dosage or know what effects to expect.

Taking too high a dose of MDMA can quickly lead to overheating, hyper-agitation, panic attacks, and even life-threatening complications like organ failure or serotonin syndrome. On the other hand, taking an underwhelming dose leads to disappointment and may tempt users to re-dose too soon before the full effects kick in, inadvertently amplifying the risks. The only sensible approach is to start with an extremely low dose if trying MDMA, but even that doesn’t eliminate all danger.

How the Slow “Release” Pills Increase Dangers

Then there’s the additional wrinkle of some MDMA pills releasing their dose extremely slowly over an hour or two. While fast-release pills allow users to feel the onset in 20-40 minutes, the slow dissolvers delay the peak effects for up to two hours. An inexperienced user may mistakenly assume a pill is severely underdosed after an hour with minimal effects and re-dose, only to be overwhelmed by the double-dose hitting them all at once.

You can imagine how devastating that could be, especially combined with the strength inconsistencies. Someone could take one 30mg pill, then re-dose with a 150mg bomb after 90 minutes of feeling little effect from the first pill. Now they’ve suddenly absorbed a potentially lethal 180mg all at once. This scenario has likely contributed to more than a few MDMA-related deaths and hospitalizations over the years.

Testing Helps, But Isn’t a Catchall Solution

While harm reduction efforts encouraging testing pills before use are valuable, this research shows testing doesn’t make MDMA safe or predictable. Even if you verify your pill contains MDMA, you still have no way to accurately measure the dosage or predict if it will hit you like a freight train or just give you a lacklustre buzz an hour later.

The simple truth is there are no guarantees with black market MDMA. Removing the randomness requires legalizing and regulating its production so pills and powder can be properly measured, dosed, and quality-controlled like a pharmaceutical. Pushing use further into the illegal shadows has proven time and again to only make drug use more dangerous, not less.

What happens to your body when you take Ecstasy?

A soon as MDMA gets into your blood stream it comes into contact with the brain, which then releases a number of chemicals. The main pleasurably effects of the drug are caused by the release of serotonin, noradrenalin and dopamine.

Too much of the drug and these chemicals will make your heart pound and go too fast. Your body will start to overheat and you will start to sweat profusely,. Energy and euphoria will give way to feelings of anxiousness and agitation. People die from taking ecstasy, so it is always important to know how to keep safe when using MDMA.

MDMA and the law

MDMA is class A drug and possession of it can result in up to seven years in prison.

Photo: “Ecstasy” by Anthony Cunningham for Zoom Testing

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

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