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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN BC: Tablets Laced With Cheap Additives Have Fatal Consequences
Title:CN BC: Tablets Laced With Cheap Additives Have Fatal Consequences
Published On:2012-01-21
Source:Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Fetched On:2012-01-23 06:03:38

he explosion in popularity of the street drug ecstasy came with the
rise of the rave culture during the 1980s, a time when pharmaceutical-
grade MDMA was widely available.

But ecstasy tablets or capsules analyzed by law enforcement agencies
routinely contain cheaper alternatives such as amphetamine,
methamphetamine and a drug closely related to MDMA, parame-
thoxymethamphetamine, or PMMA.

At least five British Columbians have died from PMMA overdoses since
August, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. It is almost certainly
not the drug they thought they were buying.

PMMA produces some of the hallucinogenic effects of MDMA but not the
powerful, fast-onset euphoria that comes with high-purity ecstasy,
according to Vancouver-based addictions worker K.K. Kidd, a former
ecstasy user.

"The problem is that [PMMA] is lethal at such a low dose," she said.

When PMMA is substituted for some of the MDMA in ecstasy by drug
makers, users will take extra doses to try to achieve the euphoric
feeling they associate with high-purity MDMA.

"When I wasn't getting the effects of the MDMA, I would take more,"
she said. "But the more MDMA [users] are taking, the more PMMA they
are getting."

"The PMMA doesn't kick in as fast and by the time it does you've taken
all these pills and it's too late," she said.

The drug can cause the user's body temperature to rise, leading to
irreversible brain and organ damage, according to Perry Kendall,
B.C.'s provincial health officer.

The drug known as E, X or occasionally XTC was never manufactured in
large amounts by its original patent-holder, Merck, but the drug was
used by a handful of psychotherapists to help patients who had
difficulty expressing their feelings.

Illegal manufacture was relatively easy due to the availability of its
main precursor, safrole, an extract of the sassafras plant. By the
early '80s, highly drug-proficient labs in Europe turned out MDMA
tablets to feed a growing market of teen partiers.

Canada outlawed MDMA in 1977. The United States followed suit in 1985,
making manufacture and possession illegal and restricting the avail-
ability of safrole, which led illegal drug makers to begin
substituting other drugs in their ecstasy tablets.

"To make more money, people are putting less MDMA in and using other
items," said Kidd.

PMMA is a natural substitute for MDMA, because of its similar
chemistry and hallucinogenic qualities. The chemical precursor of PMMA
is anet-hole, an extract of anise, which is easily ordered on the
Inter-net from China and India.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, PMMA is a designer drug
first manufactured for street use by clandestine laboratories in
Canada in the early '70s. It is sold under the street name "death."

The manufacture of PMMA has enjoyed a resurgence since 2000, and has
been implicated in deaths across western Europe, Canada and the United
States, usually in users who thought they were buying ecstasy, the DEA
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