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What happened to MDMA during covid-19?

Jun 10, 2022

The Drug Science Blog has published an article that summarises a recently published study, titled “The cathinone hydra: Increase cathinone and caffeine adulteration in the English MDMA market after Brexit and covid-19 lockdowns.” The study looks at the results of chemical analysis of substances recovered from three of the same music festivals which were held in 2019 and then in 2021 - before and after Brexit and covid-19 lockdowns. At the same festivals, festival-goers were surveyed about their intended substance use. The researchers found significant shifts in the proportion of samples that contained MDMA. In 2019, 93% of samples contained MDMA. This fell to only 55% in 2021, with a shift to cathinone-type stimulants, and caffeine. Cathinone-type stimulants can be very long acting, leading to anxiety, insomnia and in the most severe cases psychosis. Similar trends have been noted in Australia, with the New South Wales and Victorian government releasing alerts related to cathinone-type stimulants several times in the past year. This study demonstrates the value of early warning systems including drug checking programs, which are able to rapidly identify shifts in the drug market, and provide warnings to people who use drugs, but also health and emergency services.

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