A public service announcement

So I know I’ve written a lot about drugs and addiction recently (it is my profession after all!), but I have one more important thing to say on the nature of harm reduction for those who do choose to use drugs.

Some of you may have heard of several tragic and avoidable drug-related deaths that have occurred over the last couple of months at clubs and festivals in both the UK and the US. This has largely been in people who think they are taking MDMA, a relatively safe drug that has a low toxicity level and low risk for dependence, but instead have consumed a much more dangerous analog of MDMA called PMA.

PMA is chemically similar to MDMA, but there are a few crucial changes that make it much more risky. With PMA, there is a much higher chance for toxicity, meaning it is very easy to overdose on. The drug can also cause hyperthermia or over-heating, a dangerous side-effect that can result in organ failure and death.

It appears that those who illegally produce and sell ecstasy are replacing the active ingredient (MDMA) with PMA, as it is easier and cheaper to produce, and it is this switch that is causing people to unintentionally consume this dangerous substance.

The group INPUD (International Network of People who Use Drugs) has released a statement warning people about PMA and urging them to be careful and educated if they do choose to use. If you or someone you know uses drugs like ecstasy, MDMA or amphetamines, please check out their recommendations on how to stay safe.

Warning! PMA Contaminated Ecstasy and MDMA. Alert for MDMA and Ecstasy Users

(Disclosure: I served as a consultant and copy-editor on the INPUD PMA warning.)

Dana Smith

PhD student in Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge