December 11, 2019  Last Update: November 12, 2019, 4:01 pm

Deaths in Canada linked to PMMA mixed in Ecstasy

PMMA ecstasy tablets (image from US border Patrol via The Province) and tablets and gel caps thought to be ecstasy, submitted to the DEA and tested. The clear capsules with no markings containing a white powder determined to be 100mg of deadly para-methoxymethamphetamine (PMMA) cut with aspirin and ephedrine.

Party goers in Canada should be wary of what they put in their mouths, especially when they think it’s ecstasy. The BC Coroners Service recently confirmed that paramethoxy-metamphetamine (PMMA) and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) were common factors in five ecstasy-related deaths in B.C. in the past six months.

In January BC police refused to release images of the potentially deadly pills, claiming they don’t want to send the wrong message to the public.

PMMA is a rare drug and is not regularly tested in similar investigations, according to the Coroners Service. As of now, there is no known safe dose of PMMA or MDMA. Another 16-year-old boy died on January 15 after ingesting an ecstasy and pharmaceutical drug cocktail. The Coroners Service continues to investigate the incident to decide if these deaths are related.

In the online drug user forums, recreational drug users and drug addicts complained about the lack of information shared about these deadly pills.  Ignorance is a big part of the problem with drugs, say even those who are active, recreational users typically labeled “drug addicts” and “abusers” by society. A scan of the user forums following the news reports reveals concern for safety, a desire for more transparency, and some outrage at what is viewed as ignorance of the real problems. Of course there is also a healthy does of “how can I avoid the bad stuff and only drop the clean drugs,  if I don’t know what the bad ones look like?”

Drug forum participants commented on the ordeal and the media coverage. Why wouldn’t authorities reveal what the pills looked like? That could potentially save a life. The 16-year-old boy might be alive today had he known what to watch out for, they say.  Some suspected the police are worried about their image. Will people actually think that some ecstasy is safe?

One drug forum user pleaded a case for harm reduction and education because it could save lives:

"Stop telling people not to do drugs. They are going to do them anyway. It would be much more effective if people were educated on how to use drugs responsibly."
- the teacher

Meanwhile police suggest that images of “bad drugs” could enable drug abusers to selectively continue dropping “not the bad ones”, even though they have really no idea which uncontrolled illegal drugs are “bad” vs “not as deadly”. As some forum participants note, if some drugs are deadly, and no one can tell good from bad, fewer people will take the risk of ingesting unknown (uncontrolled) drugs.

"We don’t want to give the impression that these are the tablets that are risky, and other tablets are safe."
"Whether you take the pill with the death-skull on it or the tinker-bell stamp, you are still in danger."
- Constable Ian MacDonald, quoted in The Province

The information presented by authorities did have some positive consequences in the drug user forums. A number of participants pointed out that ecstasy test kits are available via the Internet, which did prompt some people to order them “just in case”. And some people even decided to test their own stashes:

“This is why, if you plan on taking illicit drugs, you should at least buy a testing kit and make sure what you’re getting is safe. Better to spend a few extra bucks and know what you’re putting in your body than to die. Unless you’re the one manufacturing the drugs, you don’t know whats really in it. If you’re going to do stupid shit like drugs. At least try and be responsible and smart about it.”

Harm reduction and avoidance is a controversial topic, especially within the dance/rave communities where ecstasy is common (as well as test kits).

"Wow this is getting out of hand. Seriously considering ending my MDMA use for a few months till this dies down, it would be a good break anyways. Not even test kits are 100%, wouldn’t risk it with one of them."
- Drug forum

The resources box below includes links to a 2011 report of 32  amphetamine abuse deaths linked to PMMA in Israel, and a review of PMMA and related PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine).



  1. Eric Weederman says:

    Pretty please!!!

    Aside from the fact that these substances are all unsafe and illegal, the police cannot participate in an education process with these pills due to the fact that these illicit tablets are always changing. There is no uniformity to this underground trade; there are no quality controls, sort of speak, and therefore the pills that are being “produced” in one location are not necessarily the same in others.

    There are too much liability concerns for the police, people cannot be easily and accurately instructed to avoid dangerous tablets.

    MDMA is not safe. No synthetic drugs are safe.


  1. […] ecstasy is not that safe: recent reports of ecstasy deaths […]

  2. […] isn’t the first time PMMA was linked to ecstasy deaths, nor is it the only poison; desmethyl fentanyl was recently identified as the poison in ecstasy […]

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