Scottish police have issued a warning against a new batch of highly dangerous PMA pills that is circulating British nightlife. The pill can be identified by its pink colour and the Superman logo. This latest story is but one in many over the last years where we have seen many incidents resulting in serious hospital visits and even some very sad cases where people have died because of the fake XTC pills. But in the last year the problem has started to grow immensely.
Put aside whatever opinion you have on drug-taking, because what we’re talking about here isn’t a recreational drug, this is pure poison. Over the last two and a half years, literally dozens of people died of PMA (or the similar PMMA) in the UK. In the US, the Electric Zoo Music Festival had to be shut down early due to two fatalities, said to be caused by PMA. In the Netherlands a 16-year old girl and a 27-year old festival goer are no longer with us because of the infamous pink pill with a reverse question mark that was around last summer. In Isreal 24 people died, and in Canada 12 people died within a year because of PMA. We are talking about a worldwide issue here, concerning all clubbers of all nationalities.
So what exactly is it? PMA, also known as ‘Dr. Death’, stands for para-Methoxyamphetamine and is part of the amphetamine family, but produces effects that are more anti-depressant than euphoric, like in XTC (of which MDMA is the main substance). The pill looks identical to a tablet of XTC and In small doses it can be mistaken for a low dose of MDMA, you feel more emotionally open or lightly energised. In combination with MDMA, PMA gets much more dangerous, especially when you start to take more. And because of the long wait before the synthetic to actually starts working, people have often taken it for a weak pill, only to drop more to chase their buzz. So an overdose is right around the corner, which causes the brain to go into overdrive and dangerously overheat. Without proper hydration, death can be the end result.
Don’t get us wrong here, all hard drugs that are taken in high doses or in the wrong combination can be fatal, XTC is no exception. But people should be extra vigilant for PMA because the risk is just too high. So what can you do to protect yourself from mistaking a PMA pill from an XTC pill? First of all you can test your drugs. This is easier in some countries than others. In the Netherlands for instance, you can take your pills to a state-initiated lab where they will professionally test your tablets without fear of prosecution. In many other states this possibility is not there (yet) . But there are other ways to test. There is a range of do-it-yourself testing kits that can be used to check your stuff for PMA. These can be found on websites such as EZtest. At the moment, the best kit out there is Robadope, which allows users to scrape a small residue of your pill into a vial that is filled with a chemical. If this chemical liquid turns red, it means you have PMA in your tablet.
Other than that, be on the lookout for articles like these, remember the pictures you see coming by in the news of bad pills and most importantly: spread the word. At parties always make sure to communicate with your friends on how much you are taking and when you have taken it, share with them the temperature fluctuations you feel and remember to keep drinking (don’t overdo it and drink TOO much though, this can cause troubles as well!) Also, make sure that there is a designated non-user among your friends during the party who can keep a clear eye on everybody, and if something were to go wrong than that person can react instantly and inform first-aid workers or doctors on the spot.
The recreational drug scene will stay a cloudy place while governments stay reluctant to lift the stigma that clings to partydrugs. It’s about time for politicians to acknowledge that recreational drugs are used by millions of regular citizens, from all social classes. It is more than right to start opening up the subject for discussion and create appropriate, modern regulations that will protect the public, not harm it. In the meantime, keep on partying, just be aware that there are dangers out there and make sure that you don’t take unnecessary risks. If in doubt, just don’t take ’em.