#StartWithHalf campaign asks MDMA users to take things slow

The Global Drug Survey are working to highlight that taking more of a drug doesn’t equal more fun, especially with increased purity levels and MDMA’s rising popularity

MDMA is pretty much everywhere at the minute, and it’s stronger than ever. In a recent study from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), it was shown that there’s been a “recent resurgence in use of MDMA in Europe and increased availability of high-strength MDMA tablets and powders”. Even as little as a decade ago, pills contained around 80mg of MDMA, but today, the average pill is popping in at about 150mg, and new ones surfacing are up to 250mg.

You can go surf PillReport to your heart’s desire, and chart the journey of red mastercards and blue ghosts from batch to batch, but with the popularity of ecstasy growing at the same exponential rate as its purity levels, our safety is paramount.

Global Drug Survey has taken on the mammoth task of charting drug use across the world, with over 100,000 respondents since its fruition. They’ve surveyed over 50,000 MDMA users across the continents, analysing different factors such as age (25.4 years old is the UK average) and gender (62 per cent) to delve into the trends and habits of users today.

Previous findings from the EMCDDA’s test of wastewater concluded a definite increase in Europe’s use of MDMA. The UK reported the second highest level of use, with 3.5 per cent of young people saying they had taken it in the last year. GDS found that respondents using MDMA escalated, up to 64.6 per cent, up from last year’s 42 per cent.

UK users are also gunning for much heavier sessions than the rest of the world, consuming an average of 1.67 pills per session. We’re also on a similar end when it comes to seeking medical help after consuming MDMA, with 1.2 per cent of users going to emergency centres, and female users are usually twice as likely to end up there. However, that’s completely unrelated to body weight or consumption rate.

Dr Adam Winstock of the Global Drug Survey says that 2016 “might be the worst time to start taking MDMA in a generation”, given its soaring popularity and purity levels

“At the time of writing in mid-2016, the drug that causes the most issues in things sold as MDMA or ecstasy is still, in most cases, MDMA itself,” writes Winstock. “While drug checking has a role to play, just knowing what’s in your pill or powder does not make it safe.”

“In the wake of the UK Government’s ban on everything that gets you high, one consequence might be more people returning to traditional drugs. It seems to GDS that better quality drugs need better quality drugs education (actually rubbish drugs need better education as well).”

Winstock explained to us before that giving dosing advice is difficult, given the fluctuation of what’s available on the market, so the campaign remains simple: go slow, take half, wait and see. “Despite MDMA quality and patterns of use showing wide cultural variation, some universal truths still hold. The more you take the greater the effects. For most drugs there is an optimum dose at which the balance of positives and negatives is about as good at it gets.”

So you can get all the pleasurable effects of energy, euphoria and empathy, without being outweighed with the negatives that coming with taking bigger does, like nausea, panic, paranoia, agitation and gurning.

“Higher doses tend to leave people feeling too wasted for too long and being less able to enjoy the people around them and their environment. GDS thinks for most people this too much. While people who die from MDMA tend not to take huge doses, bigger doses of MDMA can make you more vulnerable to MDMA related harms like overheating and cardiovascular problems,” writes Winstock. He points out that most users of MDMA use it 10 times or less per year, meaning your body and serotonin levels are able to recover. MDMA manufacturers are hardly going to agree a standard dosage, so the campaign recommends breaking a pill into four equal does to track it. Though lower doses of MDMA aren’t altogether safe, moderation and safer strategies reduces the risk of harm.

The lesson? More MDMA is not more fun.