The illegal party drug Ecstasy is making BBC headlines again due to a worrying rise in purity and availability. A recent Europe-wide study has found that Ecstasy tablets have been getting stronger in recent years with tablets tested in 2015/16 proving stronger than ever.i This has led to concerns over both the short- and long-term health risks of these higher doses. Short-term, the user is at risk of the complications of overdose. The longer term risks are less clear, but experts are pointing to a rise in hospital admissions for mental health problems relating to drug use.
Ecstasy has been the main drug of choice for party-goers since the late 1980s and early 1990s, with its growing popularity coinciding with the rise of electronic dance music (EDM). The principle chemical found in Ecstasy is known as MDMA, a substance related to amphetamine ('speed') but with additional 'psychoactive' effects causing happiness with a sense of wellbeing and closeness to others.
Very similar chemicals, such as MDA and MDEA, have comparable effects and are often found in Ecstasy tablets. As a 'street' drug, the exact ingredients and strength of any given tablet is unknown to the user, unless tested, so the effects are never known in advance. Ecstasy came to the public's attention following high-profile media coverage of the deaths of several teenagers; in some cases the consumption of just one tablet leading to tragic consequences.
Read on to for information about Ecstasy drug testing and monitoring.