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Millennium Ecstasy Warning

UK Customs have warned that some ecstasy pills sold over the millennium weekend may contain unusually high doses of Ecstasy.The Guardian reports:

"British Customs officers have seized 325 kilos of ecstasy -- about 1.3 million tablets -- since October. That is more than its entire haul for 1998. Customs warned that many of the tablets, marked "M," "Y2K" and "2000," will be particularly dangerous because short cuts have been taken in the manufacturing process. The pills are being made in bulk, and some will be three or four times more powerful than normal, authorities said."

A crude calculation of the above figures would, if the 325kg was of pure MDMA, suggest dosages of around 250mg may be involved. These would fall close to the high doses levels linked to permanent serontonin nerve damage in laboratory animals. Tablets containing 250mg MDMA would be around 3 times as strong as average (around 80mg) and would indeed be potentially dangerous. On the other hand, it may be that the reports refer to untabletted powder of unknown content & purity, or indeed tablets weighed but not individually counted. A typical "E" weighs around 250mg in total, and contains binding agents as well as the drug (without which it would fall apart). You cannot be certain of the drug content of a tablet even if it is of a familiar logo. Although different tablets from the same batch should be broadly similar in composition, IDMU has dealt with cases involving tablets of identical appearance and source, but with different composition. If the powder is not evenly mixed before tableting, there may be variations in drug content between different tablets made from the same powder base.

If you are uncertain about an ecstasy pill:

Don"t take it all at once, take half or a quarter tablet, let it take effect and see how strong it is before trying more. If you have to take several "E"s to get the effect you used to enjoy, it probably means you have already damaged your serotonin system, and upping the dose will only make things worse in the long run. If you can - Get it tested - testing kits (based on a simple chemical colour change) are available from head shops and the Green Party Drugs Group. These will tell if a tablet probably contains MDMA, MDEA or indeed if they are fake (often speed or ketamine-based pills). Unfortunately, even if the pill contains MDMA, these tests do not tell you how strong they are.Drugs like Prozac can make serotonin go further by slowing the rate at which this neurotrasmitter is broken down. Unfortunately these drugs have side effects of their own, and using a high dose ecstasy pill in conjunction with Prozac could cause a potentially dangerous overdose.

It is not yet clear how ecstasy damages serotonin nerve endings, whether it is the rapid release of serotonin causing the endings to "burn out", or whether there is another mechanism such as free-radicals involved. Certain cannabinoids (e.g. dexanabinol and cannabidiol (CBD) but not THC) appear to be protective against permanent brain damage attributable to free radical effects, so smoking hashish (but not bush or skunk) might offer some protection against Ecstasy. However, this is a theoretical effect, and has never been tested scientifically.In the longer term, it may be necessary to investigate the properties of different ecstasy analogues (phenethylamines), such as those catalogued by Shulgin, to assess which can provide the desired "loved up" effect without the more dangerous side effects attributable to MDMA.

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