Potent stimulant PMMA associated with ecstasy deaths
January 14, 2012, 1:02 pm
The Province (B.C.) reported yesterday that forensic studies on 18 ecstasy-related deaths in British Columbia since August 2011 revealed that five victims tested positive for para-methoxymethamphetamine (PMMA). Tissues from all 18 victims also contained ecstasy (MDMA).
PMMA is a phenethylamine that appears to be more potent than MDMA, with a longer onset and more extended duration of action. As with all phenethylamine stimulants, it increases heart rate and blood pressure. It has previously been reported in association with fatalities in Israel, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Germany and Taiwan.
It is not clear why PMMA has started appearing in samples of pills sold as ecstasy. It is possible that it is cheaper than MDMA. Other theories are that it enhances drug effect, it is being used because supplies of MDMA have become less available.
In his book Pikhal: A Chemical Love Story, Alexander Shulgin – the chemist who first synthesized and experimented with PMMA — reported that: “I tried it [PMMA] and I didn’t like it”. Shulgin also noted that in some animal models PMMA produces catatonia.
In The Province article, a police official sums up the situation: “We are seeing something that is highly potent and highly toxic. But my concern is that we focus on PMMA and lose sight of the danger (of MDMA-based pills). Whether you take the pill with the death skull on it or the tinker-bell stamp, you are still in danger.”
Thanks to @erowid for tweeting about this story.
[Photo of PMMA pills from wikipedia.org]