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New Study Shows European Ecstasy Is Stronger Than Ever

Here's five facts we learned from a report on how the MDMA market is changing.

by Benjamin Boles
May 3 2016, 9:40pm

Photo via Wikipedia Commons

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction released a new report today on recent changes in the European MDMA market, which contains data about new trends related to production, trafficking, and use of the drug.

According to studies conducted between August and October 2015, experts from several different fields were able to determine levels and patterns; the MDMA market including production, supply and product availability; MDMA-related harms and deaths; and implications for law enforcement, health and social responses.

Here's the five most interesting facts we learned from reading the report.

1) Pills were not stronger in the old days.

Due to increased restrictions on precursor ingredients, purity in 2009 was at an all-time low, with most MDMA seized in Europe containing no MDMA at all. However, this has changed dramatically since 2011, and current samples are showing an average of 125 mg per tablet, while some so-called "super pills" are now containing dangerously high levels of between 270 and 340 mg. This is a big change from the late 90s and early 00s, when the average pill contained only 50-80 mg.

2) You can thank China for the resurgence of MDMA production.

The precusors needed to make MDMA are all tightly controlled, but creative chemists have learned to get around this by importing a pre-precursor ingredient called PMK-glycidate from China. Unlike traditional methods, this ingredient is not derived from safrole (a liquid extracted from sassafras), and trade remains legal.

Read More on THUMP: A Nonprofit Is Raising $400,000 for a Kilo of MDMA by Hosting "Psychedelic Dinner" Parties


3) Maybe it's not really a "love drug" after all.

Sure, on a good night you may feel unusual feelings of affection for total strangers on the dance floor after popping a pill, but at larger doses the results can be quite different. Data on clinical features related to MDMA overdoses puts "aggression/agitation" at the top, with "anxiety" as the next most likely symptom.

4) Yes, you can overdose on MDMA.

As much as pill testing can help users avoid adulterants, pure MDMA can still send you to the hospital. Emergency room data from ten European countries showed that 8.1% of drug-related visits involved acute toxicity to MDMA. A study of Ibizan emergency services near to nightlife from 2008-2014 reported 8,781 drug-related incidents with 46% of cases involving MDMA.

5) MDMA is still closely linked to nightlife.

In many European countries, MDMA use has moved from the club scene into the mainstream, which presents new challenges to harm reduction efforts traditionally targeted to dance music crowds. However, clubbers are still 25 times more likely to have used the drug in the last year than the general population in the same age group.

Benjamin Boles is on Twitter.