Toxic substances or “fillers” are being detected in ecstasy pills after they are analysed. Picture: Flavio Brancaleone
Toxic substances or “fillers” are being detected in ecstasy pills after they are analysed. Picture: Flavio Brancaleone

The deadly chemicals found in ecstasy pills

MALARIA medication, paint stripper and horse tranquilliser - these are some of the toxic ingredients that can be cut with MDMA in ecstasy pills, local experts have warned.

Four deaths in as many months at dance raves in NSW have put the spotlight on the party drug MDMA, which is most commonly smuggled into Australia from Europe and Southeast Asia, according to Australian Border Force.

However, experts say those buying ecstasy pills in the hope of taking MDMA could get more than they bargain for.

 

Alcohol and Drug Foundation spokeswoman Melinda Lucas said a raft of toxic substances, or "fillers", have been detected in ecstasy pills after being analysed.

"When people do purchase ecstasy, they tend to purchase it wanting to contain MDMA," she said.

"From trials of pill testing in Australia and overseas, most of the unwanted ingredients contain things like ketamine, antihistamines, toothpaste, malaria medication and paint stripper."

A recent Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission report found Belgium and Netherlands were the principal source countries for MDMA production in Europe.

Most of the drug was smuggled into Australia from Germany in 2016-17, the report said.

Australia's thirst for MDMA is met by imports and local production.

The Lost Paradise festival on the NSW Central Coast where one partygoer lost their life after a drug overdose. Picture: Henry Lynch
The Lost Paradise festival on the NSW Central Coast where one partygoer lost their life after a drug overdose. Picture: Henry Lynch

Gangs manufacture MDMA using precursor chemicals either illegally imported, legitimately imported, or diverted from Australian businesses.

A source said: "(ice) is really straight forward, to make MDMA, it's much more complicated. Also, the precursors are not that common, precursors like safrole - they're so tightly regulated".

Australian Border Force assistant commissioner Claire Rees said there were almost 4,700 detections of MDMA weighing 522kg and 667 detections of precursor chemicals used to make the drug weighing 2.7 tonnes in the 12 months to June 30, 2017.

"Every day the ABF encounters attempts to import drugs at the border, be it at seaports, airports or international mail centres," she said.

The ACIC report said the international mail stream accounted for most MDMA seizures at the border.

An MDMA purity test kit found at aa store at Kings Cross. Picture: Derrick Krusche
An MDMA purity test kit found at aa store at Kings Cross. Picture: Derrick Krusche

An Australian Federal Police spokeswoman said tackling the supply of MDMA involving disrupting offshore operations and detecting drugs at the border.

"The AFP is focused on combating transnational crime at its source in collaboration with domestic and international law enforcement partners," she said.

"To achieve this, the AFP has positioned Liaison Officers in a number of key source and transit countries who engage local law enforcement agencies' support for investigations."

 

Ms Lucas said it was difficult to determine why these ingredients were put in pills and causes of deaths were only revealed in coroners' reports.

"Why they're in there is a really tricky question to answer, because the people making are making them illegally," she said.

"It's really important we acknowledge there is no safe drug use at all.

"We don't know what's in a pill so we can speculate on it, we don't know what the potency is."

Unwanted ingredients such as ketamine, antihistamines, toothpaste, malaria medication and paint stripper have been found in the pills. Picture Derrick Krusche
Unwanted ingredients such as ketamine, antihistamines, toothpaste, malaria medication and paint stripper have been found in the pills. Picture Derrick Krusche


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