Drugs agencies have reacted with concern to the number of recent deaths thought to involve PMA, which can be present in ecstasy tablets or pills being sold as ecstasy. Deaths have been reported in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in recent weeks.
PMA can take longer to have an effect than ecstasy, with the risk that people take repeat doses in the belief that the drugs are not working. The Department of Health has issued a health alert to NHS and public health networks about ‘reports across regions in the UK of cases of hospitalisations and sudden deaths linked to the use of ecstasy-like pills. It has been reported that pills taken by those affected have contained, either alone or in combination, para-methoxyamphetamine (PMA), MDMA (the usual active ingredient expected in “ecstasy” pills), or other ecstasy-like stimulants.’
The pills reported in recent cases have ‘been described with a variety of colours and with a variety of different logos stamped on them’, says the document, with warnings issued about ‘pink ecstasy’ tablets and, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, ‘green Rolexes’.
‘With the festival season under way, those who are using ecstasy need to be extra vigilant,’ said DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes. ‘There is no way of knowing whether or not a pill contains PMA.’
Meanwhile, new figures from the Home Office have led the government to claim that drug use in England and Wales is at its ‘lowest level since records began’. Just over 8 per cent of adults are estimated to have used an illicit drug in the last year, compared to more than 11 per cent in 1996, according to Drug misuse: findings from the 2012/13 crime survey for England and Wales. In 2012-2013, 2.8 per cent of 16 to 59-year-olds were defined as frequent drug users – based on having taken any illicit drug more than once a month on average – down from 3.3 per cent in 2011-12.
The statistics are based on Crime survey interviews with around 21,000 adults aged 16 to 59. Questions on use of the legal drugs salvia and nitrous oxide were added for the first time and revealed that more than 6 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds had taken nitrous oxide in the last year and more than 1 per cent had taken salvia.
‘It is worrying that the report shows there is a disproportionate number of people aged between 16 and 24 taking these types of drugs, compared to the overall number of 16 to 59-year-olds using legal highs,’ said regional development manager at Swanswell, Jo Woods. ‘We welcome this report and are pleased to see the Home Office recognising the developing problem.’
Report at www.gov.uk