Toxic ecstasy is killing street drug users

It’s like something out of a drug movie, only it’s not. It’s real life, dirty and ugly.

It’s like something out of a drug movie, only it’s not. It’s real life, dirty and ugly.

If you use ecstasy, now would be a good time to stop.

People using the street drug ecstasy are overdosing and dying because it has been cut with a toxic and potent chemical.

As many as eight deaths in Alberta and five in Metro Vancouver as of Monday are now suspected as being linked to tainted ecstasy containing lethal paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA).

Most of the Alberta deaths have occurred in Calgary and surrounding area — so far. Two Edmonton women who went to Calgary were poisoned when they bought ecstasy there. They survived. Those who didn’t would have experienced brain hemorrhaging before death.

It’s scary, especially for parents of young adults who may decide to try ecstasy.

“Just say no” is a nice idea but I’m not so sure that it achieves what’s intended — to teach young people to avoid using street drugs.

Ecstasy is known as the party drug. It’s a synthetic, mind-altering drug that tends to show up at dance clubs and raves.

Many of the tainted ecstasy deaths have involved younger people. In Calgary, a 16-year-old male overdosed in November.

Since then, other deaths in Calgary have included individuals ages 18, 23, 25, 29 and 31. A 16-year-old male in Langley, B.C., died from an overdose on Jan. 15.

Ecstasy use is not just happening in larger centres. It’s used everywhere across the country, including Central Alberta. Red Deer City RCMP have seized the drug in busts. At this point, there have been no reported deaths in our area from the tainted pills.

But the message is urgent and can’t be overstated — there’s a lot more danger than usual out there for anyone who decides to use ecstasy. Until authorities can get to the bottom of where the tainted drug is coming from, and hopefully, but unlikely, put a stop to it, users really could be serving themselves up a death sentence.

While some people using the drug could overdose and recover, they could then face a lifetime of heath issues. An overdose of PMMA could permanently damage the body’s organs.

PMMA is five times more toxic than what’s usually found in ecstasy, otherwise known as MDMA.

The criminals who make street drugs are not doing it so everyone can have a great time at the next party. They do it to make money.

PMMA is cheaper than ecstasy so it is being cut into ecstasy so drug dealers make more money, and apparently meet increasing demand.

In 2011, a ban on some of the chemicals used to make MDMA may have resulted in different additives being used.

PMMA takes longer to take effect, which leads to users sometimes taking more of it.

People who choose to buy and use street drugs really have no idea who made them or what’s in them.

The tainted ecstasy is believed to have come from B.C. Police say that the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is where most ecstasy production takes place in Canada, and it is tied to organized crime.

Police and health professionals began to warn the public about a month ago but numerous deaths have occurred since.

Right now in an alarming and growing number of cases, the only partying some ecstasy users are going to see will be one that involves the dance of death.

Don’t use the drug.

Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by phone at 403-314-4332, email at and on Twitter @maryannbarr1

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