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Ecstasy-related deaths are at a record high – but what can be done about it?

We know more about the drug than ever before, but 63 people died from it in 2016

  • Jasmine Kent-Smith
  • 16 October 2017

Ecstasy-related deaths are at a record high. 63 were reported by the Office of National Statistics in 2016 across England and Wales, the highest annual number since records began in 1993 (when just 12 were recorded).

And there’s a heightened risk to women in particular after taking the drug, as they’re two to three times more likely to seek emergency treatment after consumption than men, according to Global Drugs Survey findings.

Then there’s new and dangerous substances being passed off as E such as Pentylone and N-Ethyl-Pentylone, pills and powder that's stronger than ever and new recreational habits that involve combining ecstasy with substances such ketamine which all lead to growing concerns for the welfare of club drug users. “Pentylone was a real problem at Creamfields, it was a real problem at Boomtown, and we’ve seen problems all summer with it because it looks identical to MDMA,” says Fiona Measham, director of The Loop and Professor of Criminology at Durham University.

If you’ve partied at Manchester’s Warehouse Project over the past four years, you’ll be familiar with The Loop because the organization provides drug safety testing, welfare and harm reduction services - as well as offering up invaluable advice and potentially life-saving warnings. Likewise, if you’ve trekked with your tinnys in tow to a select few festivals such as Secret Garden Party this summer, you’ve probably spotted The Loop’s team dotted around to help you work out what’s in your rain-soaked baggies.

I talked to Measham about the predominance of female fatalities (take the supposed drug-related death of Louella Michie at Bestival last month for example, or the death of Joana Burns back in July), and asked if the increased risk to women stemmed from an innate desire to keep up and consume equal amounts to male friends. “It’s not necessarily women wanting to keep up with men,” she told me, “but I think it’s more the fact it’s difficult to appropriately dose when you don’t have an easy way to do it.”

“There are also issues relating to BMI, issues in relation to women being smaller and slighter, and proportionately therefore smaller and slighter people should take a smaller amount to match their body weight – milligrams per kilograms. But of course the thing with pills is they just come in one size, they don’t come in big people sizes and small people sizes!”

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