MDMA Alert (Toronto, June 2011)

2-CT-7The TRIP! Project is reporting recently that there have been a lot of “research chemicals” sold as, or used to cut, MDMA. “Toronto has literally been flooded with them, and a lot of the youth order them online in bulk to get cheap prices.”

What are Research Chemicals? (from

“When used to describe recreationally used psychoactive drugs, the term “research chemicals” generally refers to substances that haven’t yet been thoroughly studied. The term “research chemical” partially came from the fact that some substances on the recreational markets were drugs that had been discovered in labs and only examined in test-tube (in vitro) or low-level animal studies. Some are very new, while others may have been around for years but haven’t had adequate enough medical investigation to quantify health risks, have not been consumed by many people over a long period, or had much data accumulated about their use. Little is known about them, and a good deal of what is known is based only on first-hand psychonautical reports. Scant to no research has been completed on the toxicology or human pharmacology of these drugs. Few, if any, formal human or animal studies have been done. Because of this, some have suggested that they would more appropriately be called “unresearched chemicals”. Another term for them is “experimental chemicals”, and this may better communicate the unknown risks associated with ingesting these drugs. Unlike better-known drugs such as ecstasy (MDMA), which has been taken by millions of people over the last 30+ years, or marijuana which has been used by billions of people over millennia, in some cases the most novel of research chemicals may only have been used by several dozen people for a few months. The risks involved with research chemicals are greater than with many other drugs, since they’re unknowns.”

Why is MDMA being cut?

New substances are being developed all the time – some of these are easier to make than MDMA; some are easy to acquire through the internet; and some are not illegal, though can be quite harmful. Increased global restrictions on the pre-cursor chemicals used in the synthesis of MDMA are making production more difficult and, therefore, people are turning to new substances as substitutes for MDMA, or mixing them with poor quality MDMA to achieve more potent results.

What might currently be in MDMA?

It is unclear exactly what chemicals are being sold as, or added to, MDMA but there are a number of possibilities. Suggestions, based on observed reactions and anecdotal reports, include chemicals from classes of drugs known as tryptamines , phenethylamines, and piperazines, including substances such as 2C-B, 2C-I, 2C-T-7, 5-MeO-DIPT (“foxy”), 5-MeO-MIPT (“moxy”), and BZP.

Why is this concerning?

Most of these new substances share some similar physiological effects to MDMA (most of them are stimulants) but some have additional psychoactive properties that can be more psychedelic in nature, and their combination with MDMA can lead to an intense trip that you may not have expected. Most of these compounds also have a similar appearance to MDMA, generally being sold as a fine white powder.

A particular danger is that many of the newer chemicals are very “dose-sensitive”, requiring much smaller doses than MDMA and with drastically-changing intensity with higher doses. A standard MDMA dose is typically around 100mg, but some research chemicals dose at 10mg, and some are so potent (<5mg) that even touching or smelling the drug can produce unintentional contact highs. These newer drugs are also much more potent when snorted – it is advised against snorting them due to unpredictable effects.

How can you keep safer?

  • Chemical testing kits are available for purchase through Dance Safe in the United States ( These kits are able to test a substance by dropping a clear liquid on a small amount of the drug and watching the colour change. The results may indicate the presence, or lack of, certain chemicals. These kits do not measure quantity or dose and do not give a complete chemical picture though. Also, they are sometimes stopped at the border and may be hard to acquire.
  • Ask around. Know your source. Avoid purchasing drugs through the internet and only obtain drugs from people you have relied on in the past. Having said that, even dealers may not know exactly what they are selling. Check with other people that have already tried a supply and see how they reacted. Start with a smaller amount and wait to see how you are doing – be patient… some of these newer chemicals may take longer to kick in than MDMA.
  • Avoid snorting MDMA powder that you haven’t tried out before. Ingesting (swallowing) a drug is usually the least harmful way to consume a drug.
  • Have a “sober sitter”. Try and have at least one person in the group stay sober. If people start tripping, the sober person can help out.
  • Listen to your friends… if they complain they are not feeling well, help them out. Better to ruin one night and be secure than run into trouble – there will always be another night to party if you stay safe.
  • If people panic or are tripping too hard, remove them from environments where there are lots of people, loud music or flashing lights – calm them down and reassure them.
  • NEVER give more/other drugs to counter the effects. You might be tempted to give them a bump or line of a stimulant (such as crystal or coke) to stop them passing out, or maybe a depressant (such as alcohol or G) to calm them down, but this will only complicate what is happening in the person’s body. Time is needed for the body to break down the drugs and the body does not need more substances in it.
  • If someone is throwing up, don’t give them things to drink. Their body is trying to get stuff out and even water will probably cause them to keep throwing up.
  • If someone passes out, make sure they do not lie on their back – they could throw up and choke on their vomit. Lie them on their side, facing downwards, and make sure their mouth and airway is clear (e.g., remove chewing gum). For more on overdoses click here.
  • Monitor the person’s heart rate, body temperature and breathing. If people get too hot, if their heart rate beats too fast, or if they pass out, or their breathing is too slow, get them medical help. Do not be afraid to call 911. When the paramedics arrive tell them what is going on.

Summer events and Pride weekend are not far away and that means some people may be partying harder than usual. You can still have fun and keep yourself and others safer by doing a little homework. Here is some further reading…

Here is one person’s report from the May long-weekend:

“I had a terrible experience this past weekend – I have been taking club drugs for over 12 years and never had an experience like this. I was at a club-type event when I took what was thought to be a capsule of MDMA (it did not come from my usual source). I knew something was not right about 30 minutes after dosing… I became quite anxious and started to get paranoid. Then, I suddenly felt like I dissociated from my body, as if I had taken ketamine but without the anaesthetic effects. I sat down to try and ride it out thinking perhaps it was just coming on very hard. Though my friend’s said I looked OK I was feeling very messy. The music became quite intense and the lights extremely colourful and the music, lights and people were all blending together. I told my friends I had to leave and fortunately they helped me out of the venue. After that things became very blurry.

My friends tried to walk me to the street to get a cab but I was in and out of consciousness and my body kept collapsing. One friend had to slap me to keep me awake. I remember being able to tell them that physically I thought I was OK but that I was “tripping” really hard; I have never done acid but that’s what I equated it to. We were able to get into a cab but I was starting to hallucinate – I was having images and sounds of people that were not there. I have a distinct vision of sitting in a car surrounded by a “security team” that were escorting us home but it was only my two friends and the cab driver. I then felt like all my vital signs were going and have images of everyone panicking around me and being taken to the emergency department, though all the cab did was drive to my friend’s place. I briefly came-to as we stepped out of the cab and walked into my friend’s apartment but then my memory goes again. At this point they put me on the couch and I threw up – though I have no memory of this. Apparently I was talking gibberish, making all sorts of weird sounds and rolling around on the floor. In my mind, bits and pieces of my life were being pieced together – I believed I was on an “acid like trip” and coming in and out of the “real world” while going in and out of consciousness.

I would occasionally come to, and hear my friends reassuring me it would be OK, but would then pass out and have crazy visuals and terrible thoughts. I kept throwing up even though nothing was left. I was sweating profusely too. (The next day one friend told me he was giving me 15 more minutes to come around, else he was going to get me to hospital.) I slowly started to come to; in my mind my friends had been babysitting me for at least 8 hours –but when I was coherent enough to talk I learned that the entire experience had only been a couple of hours. I was still quite confused and would drift in and out of the “trip”. I still saw visual trailers and colourful lights when my eyes were both closed and opened. My friends finally moved me from the living room to the bedroom where for the next hour I was much more conscious but was still nauseous and sweating. After another hour or two I was able to go to the bathroom and freshen up, though I still had visual disturbances, felt very mentally, if not physically, drained and could not stop salivating. I could not really sleep even though I was exhausted. A couple of hours later I had very bad diarrhoea. I eventually fell asleep for a few hours. When I woke up I was actually feeling OK and probably had less of a hangover than I sometimes get from MDMA.”

TRIP! provides safer sex and drug information and supplies to party people in Toronto’s electronic music communities. We neither condone nor condemn the use of any drug, and provide factual information to help partiers make informed decisions that directly affect their long-term health. TRIP! (a project of Central Toronto Community Health Centres), is a grassroots initiative that sprouted in the summer of 1995 and has since nurtured healthy and wise choices among those in our communities.

One thought on “MDMA Alert (Toronto, June 2011)

  • Wouldn’t it be better to just refrain yourself from using any kind of drugs? The last time I tried to get high just because everyone else was doing the same thing I ended up becoming a heroin addict. I lost precious years of my life trying to recover, you have no idea how grateful I am for being able to attend heroin treatment centers and get back my old to self but I feel bad knowing that everything could have been avoided.

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