Over the past week there have been three deaths in the United Kingdom associated with a drug called PMA (Phenoxymethylamphetamine) that was sold as Ecstasy. It is reasonable to assume that none of these people knew what they were taking because PMA is a very common adulterant for Ecstasy. PMA has the same initial effects of Ecstasy and is closely related to PMMA, but is approximately 10 times more potent. Both of these drugs have made a resurgence in the drug world of the past couple of years and is responsible for over 100 deaths in the United Kingdom in that time period. These are not new drugs, however. They were developed in the 1950’s as beneficial mood adjusters or antidepressants. After their medical benefit was deemed non-beneficial, they were discarded and classified as illegal under the UN convention.
Their resurgence is likely a result of Ecstasy’s precursor chemicals becoming illegal. Ecstasy and Molly’s main ingredient is Safrole. The precursor to MDMA was made illegal through international attempts to halt the production and distribution of these two drugs. In one seizure in Thailand, over 50 tonnes of Safrole was taken by the authorities. Imagine the black market drug business like a long balloon clowns use to tie balloon animals; when you squeeze one end, the other end inflates. Through inhibiting the production of Safrole, another substitute emerged known as Aniseed Oil, and became the ideal precursor chemical for MDMA. For trailer park chemists they seem to be very similar chemically. That has lead to a massive production of PMA and PMMA. Again, these drugs will give you similar effects but they are so much more toxic than MDMA.
As said before, these drugs are approximately 10 times more powerful than MDMA & MDA. So if you take a regular dose of MDA or MDMA at 80 mg, that same dose of PMA or PMMA would be equivalent to taking 800mg of MDA or MDMA. Even worse, PMA & PMMA takes much longer to metabolize in your body. What normally would take a half hour to 45 minutes to feel the effects takes about an hour and a half to two hours. Naturally, a user is going to assume that he or she got some “weak shit” and take more, not realizing that they were already way beyond their normal dosage. A volunteer for ANKORS describes the effect of PMA and PMMA like “turning off your thermostat; your body just begins to cook from the inside out.”
These deaths may have been prevented with alternative drug policies. The Netherlands is a great example of smart harm reduction. In the Netherlands, there are places you can go to get your drugs tested to see if they are what the dealer said they were, with out the fear of being arrested or prosecuted. This has a two fold benefit stream. First of all, it safely informs the user of what they are about to ingest and how safe the drug is. Secondly, it allows the government and health organizations to issue warnings to the general public about adulterated substances in the drug stream. This is very similar to what ANKORS does at Shambhala and those policies resulted in seven hospitalizations and zero deaths at the five day festival.
If harm reduction methods and policies like these were put in place at Paradiso in 2013 or at Freaknight in 2014, perhaps we would not have lost those beautiful souls that passed away. Do you think those methods would be beneficial to our music scene? Tell us in the forums or comment below.