One of the questions I most commonly get asked concerns the quality of Australian pills. People want to know what is contained in an ecstasy tablet. Most are sure that the quality isn’t as good as it once was. Is it that the drugs aren’t as good or is it that the user has built up a tolerance to MDMA? Very little research is ever released publicly on what is actually contained in Australian ecstasy tablets. However, this month has seen the release of some data from Victorian police seizures, which gives us a little more information on the state of the Australian ecstasy market.

Since 1997, the Chemical Drugs Intelligence Team of the Victoria Police Forensic Services Department has maintained a database on drug seizures. Over the last seven years this database has developed into a comprehensive record of drug seizures and trends within Victoria.

The major findings of the data were that the three most common illicit drugs in Victorian tablet seizures were: 3,4- methylenedioxymethylamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy); methylamphetamine (speed); and ketamine. These drugs can be seen in single or multi-drug-containing tablets, i.e. sometimes these drugs are found in pills by themselves, but often they are found in varying combinations. They also found that illicit tablets are not made to any set recipe. The quantity and mix of drugs vary from batch to batch, hence week to week and year to year. The designs and logos mean very little and often tablets with the same logos have very different combinations of drugs contained within them.

Tablet compositions where MDMA, methylamphetamine or ketamine was the major drug identified were examined. When MDMA was identified as the major drug component of the tablet, in 88 percent of these cases it was the only drug present in the tablet. In 12 percent of cases one or more other drugs were also present with MDMA. However, it was much more unusual to have a single drug tablet that contained just speed or ketamine. These drugs were usually found in pills that contained a number of different substances.

So does this mean that pills that contain just MDMA are better quality because they don’t have all the other stuff in? Unfortunately, no. Although only one drug was discovered, it became apparent that it is also important to look at the purity of that substance. Results showed that recently the purity of the MDMA pills has been extremely low -“ around 20 percent (with a high of 51 percent), compared to the previous year’s findings of 36 percent (up to 70 percent).

This is in direct contrast to European data which shows that ecstasy purity is on the rise in that part of the world. It is believed that the reason for the huge discrepancy is that an increasing percentage of our pill market is manufactured here and instead of using MDMA (which is difficult to make in Australia), the manufacturers are using more readily accessible drugs such as speed and ketamine to create an ecstasy-like effect for the user.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug, and no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?

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