Johns Hopkins Study Reveals Testing Ecstasy At Raves And Concerts May Decrease Risks For Some Users

Volunteers visited raves and music festivals throughout the United States in an effort to test pills in a drug culture environment. When some of the recreational drug users see the actual test results, which reveal the pills are fake or adulterated, they may be more adamant about not taking them, according to a Johns Hopkins report.

While there are supposedly safer and purer forms of MDMA, the test revealed the pills contain just as many toxic additives as the versions known as Molly and Ecstasy. This study revealed the most common adulterant was “bath salts,” a psychoactive designer drug. These results are entirely different than the results from older analyses.

The research team noted that on-site pill testing could prove to be a beneficial public safety and health tool.

“People would be safest not taking any street drugs at all, but if free, no-fault testing can reduce deaths and other catastrophic consequences, it may be a service worth having,” said Matthew W. Johnson, an associate professor of behavioral sciences and psychiatry at Johns Hopkins. “Our results suggest that some people will reject taking a pill to get high if it doesn’t contain what they thought it did, or has harmful additives.”

MDMA contains psychedelic and stimulant properties, which is have popular among people, who attend raves and music festivals. The side effects of the drug include heightened sensations and euphoria. The risks of MDMA include dehydration, chills, hyperthermia and nausea, as well as seizures, which is less common. The amphetamine and caffeine found in the drug has been linked to overdose and death.

A 2014 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey reported nearly seven percent – 20 million people – of the United States population over 12 years of age had tried Ecstasy at least one time. Between 2004 and 2011, emergency room visits linked to Ecstasy toxicity increased by 120 percent. The average street value for Ecstasy pill is $10 to $20.

The DanceSafe organization tested for free samples of powder and pills at raves and music festivals between July 2010 and July 2015. The powder and pills were purportedly MDMA. The process utilized for the testing required nearly one milligram to be removed from the capsules or pills and added to various chemicals.

The components in the pills changed colors, which were compared to a color chart that consisted of 29 substances, like caffeine, sugar or cocaine.

The DanceSafe members collected 529 samples in all and out of those, 318 or 60 percent were found to contain MDMA or MDA, a closely related drug. The most common adulterant was bath salts, followed by methamphetamine.

“People who take pills and first responders need to know that no matter how the pills are branded or what name they are sold as, they almost always contain a mix of ingredients,” Johnson sais. “Our results should discourage a false sense of security about the purity and safety of so-called Molly.”

After the results were revealed to the 168 participants, 46 percent said they were going to take the pills that contained MDMA. However, there was no way to confirm these numbers.

Pill testing service legality is a trending debate topic. Hosts of raves and music festivals are hesitant to allow pill testing on-site. Since they are aware that drugs are on their property, they could face prosecution.

The study was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology on July 10, 2017.

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