Size Matters: Comparing the MDMA content and weight of ecstasy tablets submitted to European drug checking services in 2012-2021

Measham, Fiona ORCID: 0000-0002-9322-1931, Vrolijk, R, Quesada, A, Luf, A, Schori, D, Radley, S, Acreman, D, Verdenik, M, Martins, D, Cuhnac, M
et al (show 6 more authors) (2022) Size Matters: Comparing the MDMA content and weight of ecstasy tablets submitted to European drug checking services in 2012-2021. Drugs, Habits and Social Policy, special issue on drug checking, 23 (4), 23 (3). pp. 207-219.

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Purpose The 3,4-methylenedioxymetamphetamine (MDMA) content in ecstasy tablets has increased enormously throughout Europe across the past decade. This study aims to determine whether this is caused by the production of “stronger” tablets (more mg MDMA per mg of tablet), or if tablets have simply been getting larger and heavier (more mg of tablet in total). Design/methodology/approach A data set of 31,716 ecstasy tablets obtained in 2012–2021 by 10 members of the Trans European Drug Information (TEDI) network was analysed. Findings The MDMA mass fraction in ecstasy tablets has remained virtually unchanged over the past 10 years, with increased MDMA contents being attributed almost exclusively to increased tablet weight. These trends seem to be uniform across Europe, despite varying sampling and analytical techniques being used by the TEDI participants. The study also shows that while tablet weight correlates perfectly with MDMA content on a yearly basis, wide variations in the MDMA mass fraction make such relations irrelevant for determining the MDMA content of individual tablets. Research limitations/implications These results provide new opportunities for harm reduction, given that size is a tangible and apparently accurate characteristic to emphasise that one tablet does not simply equate to one dose. This is particularly useful for harm reduction services without the resources for in-house quantification of large numbers of ecstasy tablets, although the results of this study also show that chemical analysis remains crucial for accurate personalised harm reduction. Originality/value The findings are both new and pertinent, providing a novel insight into the market dynamics of ecstasy tablet production at a transnational level.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This version is the version before any changes were made to the proofs by the first author, so it may not be the final version of the text.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Europe, Harm reduction, MDMA, Drug checking, Ecstasy tablets, TEDI
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Law and Social Justice
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2023 10:18
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2023 14:26
DOI: 10.1108/DHS-01-2022-0003
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