The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

Malta outlaws ‘Chinese ecstasy’, synthetic drug linked to over 125 deaths

Sunday, 11 August 2019, 09:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

The government this week banned the deadly synthetic drug known as ‘Chinese ecstasy’, a new designer drug responsible for at least 125 deaths.

The United Nations (UN) has ordered a worldwide ban on the drug, N-ethylnorpentylone, in an attempt to shut down production in illegal Chinese ‘factories’, which have flooded the European market.

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In the UK, the drug was found this summer in one in 20 samples of ecstasy, or MDMA, tested by The Loop, a social enterprise which provided free drug-testing services at around a dozen festivals.

The drug, along with yet another strain of synthetic cannabis – ADB-FUBINACA – was officially listed in the Medical and Kindred Professions Ordinance as a restricted and dangerous drug.

The drug reportedly looks smells, and tastes like MDMA, but has even more disastrous side-effects.

The drug has been linked to at least 125 deaths between 2016 and 2018, according to World Health Organization (WHO), the majority of which were in Britain, with others reported in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.

The WHO also identified a ‘dramatic’ increase in seizures of the drug since 2016. The drug is reportedly three times stronger than MDMA, causing psychosis and paranoia in users, who are then kept awake for up to four days following ingestion.

The UK’s National Crime Agency warned last month that the drug was often disguised and sold as ecstasy.

Professor Fiona Measham, a former government drugs adviser, criminologist at Durham University and The Loop’s founder said: “The real problem is that the effects are not that dissimilar at the start to what a user might expect from MDMA but it takes longer. What people might think is that they have a weak sample of MDMA so they take more and inadvertently re-dose or overdose.”

“It can keep them awake for two to four days. They become increasingly stressed and anxious. The concern is that young people don’t realise it’s the drugs and think it could be them or think they are losing a grip of their faculties. We have seen people who have full blown psychotic episodes.”

Measham said there would be a delay before the UN and national bans curbed supplies but warned that, as with the synthetic cannabinoid Spice, which is now in its fourth generation, illegal drug manufacturers would be developing potentially more potent versions aimed at circumventing UN regulations.

“Each time we ban one generation,” Measham said, “they produce a new generation which is more harmful. It’s a driver towards more and more harmful substances. Organised crime will fill the vacuum to meet the demand because they will be able to get more profits from it.”

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