2022 update on MDMA
Get the facts and reduce the harms
MDMA is the shortened chemical name for the synthetic psychoactive drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as 'ecstasy'. It is one of the most commonly used substances in Ireland and is associated with the night-time economy and party settings. .
MDMA strength/potency is increasing throughout Europe
MDMA products and drug markets can vary and both high-dose MDMA and adulterated products have been a concern for some time. There have been rising numbers of MDMA-related hospital admissions and deaths in some countries.The latest drug-related death data for Ireland shows that 14 deaths occurred as a result of MDMA use in 2017 with a total of 89 deaths occurring between the period of 2008 -2017.
What do we know about high strength products?
- Based on EU data, MDMA pills now contain higher levels of the drug compared the past.
- Ten years ago pills contained roughly 60 - 90 mg of MDMA, whereas services in Europe are now finding that pills can contain 2-3 times (over 200 + mg) the average adult dose of MDMA which can greatly increase the risks.
- As a very rough guide, some services state that 125 mg is considered a high and riskier dose of MDMA, but a person’s reaction to any drug will be based on a number of unique factors such as their physical and mental health, if they have existing health concerns, their gender and the setting they use in. It is always safer for people not to use at all and people may not be aware of the dosage that a pill, powder or crystal contains.
- We have identified that some young people perceive MDMA powders and crystals as a more 'trusted' option compared to pills but powders and crystals can also contain high volumes or adulterants.
Results from ‘back of house’ drug testing at Electric Picnic 2022
For the first time in Ireland, the HSE accessed drugs through surrender bins at Electric Picnic in September 2022 and confirmed that high strength products are also a concern in Ireland. This is the first time we can confirm the amount of MDMA is in products.
- 19 MDMA samples were handed in
- MDMA pills ranged from 36mg to 235mg of MDMA meaning that people can’t be sure which pill they purchase is super strength
- 6 ‘MyBrand’ skills with the same press in different colours were handed in and all ranged in purity (36mg to 235mg)
- There may be coycat pills, you could get different amounts of MDMA each time and advice sites showing pills contents should be used with caution
- 1 pill had low amounts of the synthetic cathinone mephedrone
- Powders were also super strength meaning it could be difficult for people to estimate a dose for harm reduction purposes
- High strength products mean that it could be easier to over consume leading to a drug emergency (overdose)
The world’s strongest MDMA pill found in Manchester
In November 2021 the MANDRAKE service in Manchester found the world’s strongest MDMA pill on record which contained 477 of pure MDMA in 'Blue Punisher' pills. This is 4-5 times the average adult dose and even half of this pill would have been risky. Other examples by MANDRAKE in December found pills containing 373 mg of pure MDMA such as the Orange “Mybrand Skull”.
Cathinones in MDMA - the latest concern
Although high strength MDMA products is one of the main concerns at present, the most recent UK drug checking data shows that unknown or new contents are emerging in MDMA powder, pill and crystal products. The Loop UK have found new substances across a range of products and also identified identical pills containing different substances. A number of alerts were issued by The Loop UK in 2021 in relation to MDMA containing 3-Methylmethcathinone (3-MMC), 4-Chloromethcathinone (4-CMC) and Eutylone.
About 3-Methylmethcathinone (3-MMC)
- This is substance is from the 'Cathinone' class of substances and is similar to mephedrone which was previously sold in head shops in Ireland.
- It produces strong effects and a strong urge to re-dose and consume extra doses.
- It can lead to mental health reactions, prolonged stimulation and insomnia.
About 4-Chloromethcathinone (4-CMC)
- This substance has been identified in a number of UK products throughout summer 2021.
- It is a potent stimulant from the 'Cathinone' class of substances.
- It is reported to produce strong stimulant effects with less empathogenic effects compared to MDMA.
- It can lead to mental health reactions, prolonged stimulation and insomnia.Learn more about this substance here.
About Eutylone (Bk-EBDP)
- Eutylone has also recently been detected in UK samples. It can produce similar effects to MDMA that are short lived which could lead to risky re-dosing.
- Eutylone is also a cathinone type substance and can lead people to think they have purchased weak MDMA and consume more.
- It is associated with a long period of negative after effects including difficult anxiety, paranoia and prolonged stimulation.
- the effects will include anxiety, insomnia, head aches, paranoia and an upset stomach. Know Your Stuff New zeland are aware of seizures linked with use and stated that there is also a risk of convulsons and death.
We are concerned that people may unknowingly buy a cathinone such as 4 CMC which could be sold to them as MDMA pills/powders/crystals or cocaine. At Electric Picnic, we found a large amount of 3-CMC in white cyrstals.
While it’s safer not to use stimulant type drugs at all, be in the know if you do:
- Take a small test dose and see how you react. You may find that the product is stronger than expected. Cathinones may produce less emphatogenic effects compared to MDMA and in some cases the effects make people want to take more (re-dose).
- If you don’t react as expected, consider not taking any more.
- Avoid re-dosing if you don’t react as expected, this can increase the risks if cathinones are within products.
- Don’t be afraid to get medical help in venues or by calling 112.
Get more harm reduction information here.
Related media and updates
- HSE Safer Nightlife Programme: Results from 'back of house' drug testing
- HIGH-STRENGTH MDMA FOUND AT ELECTRIC PICNIC FESTIVAL
- Health officials issue warning on ‘strongest ever’ ecstasy pill
- Alerts by The Loop