Impurity of Ecstasy Increases Its Dangerous Effects

Drugs are dangerous enough when we know exactly what’s in them, but what if the pills you’re buying aren’t what you think they are? Because they are not regulated, street drugs don’t come with a guarantee. Those manufacturing them have plenty of incentive to cut their expensive illegal substances with cheaper ingredients—despite the health risks these fillers may pose.

More so than with many other drugs, when you buy MDMA, you’re rarely getting what you pay for.

A Dallas rave club, Afterlife, was shut down in 2011 after officials claimed drugs were being sold freely inside. During the hearing to determine if the club’s license would be permanently revoked, police officers testified about going undercover to buy Ecstasy (aka MDMA) inside the nightclub. One officer called the club “an open-air, free-for-all drug-trading den,” according to The Dallas Observer.1

One pill, marketed to the undercover officer as “Molly,” was supposed to be pure MDMA, but when it was analyzed, it contained a substance the officer couldn’t identify.

The Dallas Observer found a local chemist, willing to speak on the condition of anonymity. His assessment? “The only thing that’s predictable about Ecstasy, really, is how unpredictable it is.” The percentage of actual MDMA found in each pill varies wildly. While it’s all sold as Ecstasy, those who indulge have no idea what they’re really putting in their mouths.

That’s the common denominator with all drugs, though, isn’t it? Not exactly. That same chemist said that “compared to meth and cocaine, the purity of ecstasy is very low,” adding, “the pills we get are generally 5 to 10 percent pure.” (By contrast, cocaine is commonly 80-90 percent pure.) It’s even possible that something sold as Ecstasy could contain no MDMA at all.

Partygoer on ecstasy

So, what exactly are those partygoers taking?

Often, it’s mixed with meth. In fact, the chemist interviewed estimated that 15 to 20 percent of Ecstasy pills contain methamphetamine. While uncommon, some pills actually contain only meth. Ecstasy is also frequently cut with caffeine. When combined with meth, there’s a danger of overheating, even to the point of death. “The drug increases metabolism, body temperature, they’re dancing at these raves, they start overheating and they literally die from that,” he said. It’s also become common to see designer drugs from Europe and Australia being sold as Ecstasy. The effects are similar, but these drugs may be cheaper or easier to make than MDMA.

One particular case notwithstanding, it’s important to point out that this is a problem with any illegal drug. You simply cannot know what you are taking when it is not regulated.Dealers mix drugs with cheaper substances to make more money, and you are putting your life at risk every time you consume it. Ecstasy is known to often be laced with other drugs; however, any drug can be laced with others and can be fatal with no warning.

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1 Merlan, Anna, “Don’t Panic, But There’s Probably Meth in Your Ecstasy and De-Wormer In Your Cocaine.” The Dallas Observer. 6 March 2012.

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