What’s in your pill?

Two people are in hospital after taking what has been described as ‘potentially lethal’ ecstasy at Fabric nightclub last weekend. This lethal batch is thought to be making its way around London.

These cases follow the deaths of five people in Scotland. Their deaths are thought to be attributed to a ‘lethal’ batch of ecstasy and led to calls for festival goers to beware at last months T in the Park Festival.

But what is so different about these batches?

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA is the chemical name for ecstasy. Pills taken recreationally are not 100% pure, they will have been cut with numerous other chemicals and sold as powder or pressed into pills. The pills are generally coloured or are stamped, which many attribute to a specific pill. The problem is, is that this is not always correct.

It has been found that in fact over the years the amount of MDMA in an ‘ecstasy’ pill has decreased and largely been replaced with ‘legal highs’. Mephedrone being one of the most popular replacements before its classification last year.

So why is this happening now?
Levels of MDMA are beginning to increase again, with the levels found in the Scottish batches reported to be up to 6 times stronger than expected. These increases mean users may think they are taking their ‘usual’ amount but are actually taking a lot more.

Batches found in other parts of the UK have been found to contain PMMA (paramethoxymethamphetamine) instead of MDMA. PMMA is not as strong as MDMA, leading users to take more in order to get the high but increasing their chance of overdose.

Currently one of the London clubbers is still in a critical condition.


“Ubertan is fine…. it’s herbal.”

Concern today over the use of a herbal nasal spray which gives you a tan, apparently by ‘heightening’ the body’s melanin levels. The problem is this product has not been tested by the MHRA, is not licensed in the UK and animal studies have found numerous potential side effects.

It is purported to contain Forskolin, however MHRA have discovered it contains Melanotan II. Melanotan II is also unlicensed and has many known side effects.

It is not currently illegal to use Ubertan, though you are putting yourself in danger, but under the Medicines Act, 1968 it is illegal to sell it.

But apparently it’s herbal so thats ok……….

Many people have this misconception that herbal medications are fine but this is far from true.
The best example is prehaps St. John’s Wort, a widely available over the counter herbal medication used for depression. Many people know that it can stop the contraceptive pill from working but do they know why? And what other medications it can affect?

St. John’s Wort is an inducer of the CYP3A4 and CYP2C9 enzymes and P-glycoprotein. These all play an important role in the absorption and metabolism of many drugs, thus St. John’s Wort decreases their bioavailability and efficacy.

And don’t forget about grapefruit!!!