As two more families lose loved ones to drugs, radical measures should be considered.
In the past few days, two families have received the news that every parent dreads – a child has died. Both the young men concerned had attended parties where tens of thousands of young people danced all night to pounding electronic music. Twenty other people were in hospital. The suspicion, not unnaturally, is that drugs were involved. Scotland Yard singled out MDMA for mention – methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is the active ingredient (sometimes) in Ecstasy tablets.
We do not know what caused these deaths. But we can say this: Ecstasy, or “E”, is creeping back in to fashion after years of declining popularity. The reason is simple: MDMA. It is MDMA that acts on the brain to provide the surging, euphoric “rush” that Ecstasy users seek, and which is accentuated by the pulsing beat and bass notes of dance music.
Here is some background. MDMA has been scarce since around 2002, probably because of a clampdown on the trade in the chemicals needed to make it. Instead, drug dealers started adulterating their product with cheap substitutes, such as piperazines (better known as worming powder). Other common adulterants included designer drugs called cathinones, or amphetamines or caffeine. Some of these substances are a lot more dangerous than MDMA. But their low cost meant that tablets traded as “Ecstasy” could be sold for as little as £1 or £2 a pill. The effect was weaker, mind you, so many users started to lose interest in E, and turned to alternatives, such as alcohol.
This was the Ecstasy scene for the past decade: cheap pills, made of dodgy ingredients, and taken in large quantities, because they lack potency. Clubbers might take three, four or five in a night.
In the past 12 months, though, stronger E has returned. Traffickers, perhaps having discovered new sources of the precursor chemical, are making tablets with high levels of MDMA again. This variant contains 100 to 200 milligrams of MDMA. Ecstasy this powerful hasn’t been available since the heyday of rave culture, between about 1990 and 2002.
28 Nov 2011