Adulterants in Drugs MDMA

Ecstasy is increasingly becoming popular around the world.

While ecstasy or Molly, commonly misidentified as a “purer” form of the substance is sometimes referred to as the Hug Drug or Love Drug, it and the adulterants that often go into these colorful little pills aren’t nearly so pleasant.

Pure ecstasy includes a single ingredient: MDMA. Anything else has been modified to include other, sometimes deadly, chemical components. To understand how the purity of ecstasy has changed over the years, we analyzed more than 25,700 test reports of ecstasy from around the world to see how often these pills are cut with other substances. Continue reading to see what we discovered.

Not a Harmless Drug

Psychostimulant Related Deaths 2014

Since 1999, the number of psychostimulant-related deaths in the U.S. has increased by nearly eight times, from 563 people in 1999 to almost 4,300 deaths in 2014.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 1 in 10 people between the ages of 18 and 25 has consumed some version of ecstasy, but young adults aren’t the only ones. School-aged children have been known to ingest MDMA recreationally, and nearly 7 percent of people 12 or older have tried it at least once.

There are many dangers associated with this drug. In fact, in 2016, the White House found more than 22,000 people were hospitalized due to symptoms related to MDMA in 2011. Reported side effects can include anxiety, nausea, heart failure, and in some cases, death.

As our report will continue to explore, increased mortality rates have been due to ecstasy cut with more than just MDMA, in many cases, unbeknownst to those taking the drug.

The Odds of Taking Something Other Than Ecstasy

MDMA Pills Purity Rate

According to the more than 25,700 records taken between 2005 and 2017 from PillReports.net, nearly half of the MDMA pills inspected were adulterated in some capacity. In some cases, versions of the drug may contain no MDMA at all.

Pills and capsules filled with toxic substances masquerading as ecstasy can be just as dangerous, if not more so, and can lead to serious health risks like seizures, stroke, and death.

Due to the rise in popularity of adulterated forms of ecstasy, some companies have even begun manufacturing testing kits to help protect users from ingesting unknown substances.

Ecstasy Reports Around the World

Contents MDMA Pills Country Statistics

According to data from PillReports.net, of the 25,725 pills sold as ecstasy in six countries, just over a third were pure MDMA. In countries like the Netherlands and U.K., these percentages were higher but never exceeded 69 percent. The ecstasy analyzed in Australia was the least pure, with only 16 percent of pills testing as pure MDMA.

In some cases, MDxx was as prevalent as MDMA, or even more so. MDxx is closely structured chemically like MDMA, and some testing kits can’t distinguish between the two.

However, while MDMA and MDxx made up the bulk of pill contents studied, more than 1 in 6 pills contained unknown substances that couldn’t be identified at all. More than 8 percent contained a mixture of MDxx and amphetamines (commonly referred to as speed or meth), and over 1 percent between 2016 and 2017 contained a drug known as PMA (or paramethoxyamphetamine).

PMA mimics the effects of ecstasy but can be up to 10 times more potent. Since PMA takes longer than MDMA to take effect, users sometimes take more of the drug to feel high, which, in some cases, has led to death.

Ecstasy Purity Over Time

MDMA MDXX Adulterants Data

Most pills sold as ecstasy over the last 12 years contained some amount of MDMA, the substance that effectively makes them ecstasy.

However, at several points over the last decade, the second most common ingredient in ecstasy pills was identified as an unknown substance.

Because the drugs being used in ecstasy change so often, databases like PillReports.net often list their ingredients as unknown. Even drugs found in the same packaging have had different ingredients in them, and unknown substances can have various levels of active ingredients, making these pills even more dangerous. Since 2012, the DEA has found more than 80 unique chemical compounds in drugs marketed and sold as Molly.

The presence of amphetamines in ecstasy has decreased over time, while other components like 2C-B have increased over the last five years. 2C-B is an illegal alternative to MDMA linked to severe health effects in some people.

How Often Ecstasy Impacts Younger People

Ecstasy MDMA Use Prevalence

People of every age can be negatively affected by the use of ecstasy, in pure and adulterated forms. In 2015, the NIH reported more than 1 percent of children and teens between the ages of 12 and 17 had ingested MDMA, as well as over 13 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

In 2015, a teenage girl in Colorado Springs overdosed from a form of MDMA police believe was mixed with another substance. In 2013, multiple college students died after ingesting a form of Molly acquired at a New York City outdoor music festival.

As countries continue to report increased use of MDMA, and the strength and ingredients found in pills labeled as ecstasy or Molly continue to fall into question, city officials in areas where these tragedies have occurred have stated, “There’s no ‘good batch’ of [these drugs].

Ecstasy Purity Across the Globe

Purity MDMA World International

Of the more than 25,700 pill reports we examined via PillReports.net, less than half of drugs in Oceania labeled as ecstasy were pure MDMA. While the level of purity has increased in recent years, so has the overall strength. According to one survey, 90 percent of people in Australia described ecstasy as “easy to obtain.

In Asia, drugs labeled as ecstasy were only slightly less likely to be pure MDMA than in the U.S. In Europe, purity was highest. This discrepancy highlights the variety of substances that make up drugs labeled as ecstasy or Molly. With drug officials finding new chemical makeups laced into these pills all the time, it has become nearly impossible to identify pure ecstasy without testing for adulterants first.

Personal Perspective of Ecstasy

Survey Adulterants in Drugs MDMA
Users who submitted their pills to PillReport.net for analysis sometimes incorrectly guessed whether the ecstasy they consumed was pure MDMA.

Of over 22,000 pill samples recorded, more than 71 percent of users believed the drugs had been adulterated based on their experience after consumption. While PillReports.net found more than 55 percent of the drugs examined were, in fact, pure MDMA, less than 29 percent of men and women who took these pills correctly assessed the quality or chemical components that made up this substance.

Regardless of the purity of ecstasy, the adverse effects of ingesting this drug in any form can range from nausea and chills to seizures and loss of consciousness. Users may have believed their drugs were adulterated when, in reality, they were only experiencing the negative impacts of MDMA.

No Good Forms of Ecstasy

The strength of ecstasy is increasing, and the drug in 2016 was five times as strong as it might have been in 2009.

The truth is people have no way to tell what they are taking just by looking at it. New chemical components are being laced with these drugs every year, and the results can be fatal.

If you or someone you love is concerned about their use of ecstasy, visit us online at AmericanAddictionCenters.org for help. We offer trusted resources for substance misuse and treatment centers to help you get back to living your best life today. Visit us online at AmericanAddictionCenters.org to learn more.

Sources

Methodology

We analyzed PillReports.net’s database of over 25,700 test reports of pills sold as ecstasy worldwide to see how often these pills are cut with other substances, and what those substances are.

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