MDMA Evaluation 2021

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a synthetic amphetamine derivative and belongs to the group of entactogens. MDMA is traded either in tablet form as "ecstasy" (pill) or as crystals or powder.
In total, 364 samples declared as MDMA (crystals and tablets) were analysed by the Drug Information Centre (DIZ) in Zurich in 2021. Thereby, 202 ecstasy tablets declared as MDMA and 162 powder samples declared as MDMA have been handed in for analysis. The results published here are not representative for the entire substance market of the city of Zurich.
171 tablets and 148 powder samples were tested within the framework of stationary drug checking. During three mobile drug checkings, which were carried out in the city of Zurich in 2021, 31 ecstasy tablets and 14 powder samples were handed in and analysed.

Ecstasy tablets ("pills")

On average, the ecstasy tablets analysed by DIZ 2021 contained 175.4 mg MDMA*HCl. This is an average of 11.6 mg MDMA*HCI less than in the previous year. The range was from 53.9 mg to 300.2 mg MDMA*HCI per tablet. The share of ecstasy tablets with more than 120 mg MDMA*HCI per tablet is 86.4% and has slightly decreased in 2021. 26.1% of the tablets dispensed were even classified as extremely high-dosed (>200mg). A substance warning was issued for 86.4% of the ecstasy tablets analysed due to a high MDMA content (>120 mg MDMA).
In 2021, 11.4 % of the ecstasy tablets analysed contained at least one other unexpected pharmacologically active substance in addition to or instead of MDMA. These were misdeclarations, pharmacologically active extenders and/or synthetic impurities. Caffeine was analysed in three ecstasy tablets, synthetic by-products in 16 tablets, the amphetamine derivative MDEA in two tablets, amphetamine in two tablets and one tablet contained the mescaline derivative 2C-B instead of MDMA.

MDMA powder ("crystals")

On average, the crystalline MDMA samples we analysed contained 90.8 % MDMA*HCl. The MDMA content varied between 56.9 % and 100 % MDMA*HCI. The average MDMA content in crystalline MDMA is fairly constant over the years.
In 2021, 12.3 % of the analysed crystalline MDMA samples contained unexpected substances. In 2021, synthesis by-products were analysed in 14 crystalline MDMA samples, the synthesis by-product MDDMA in four samples, MDA in two crystalline samples, the mescaline derivative 2C-B in one sample and the entactogen butylon in one sample. Furthermore, various samples were handed in that were contaminated with minor (presumably) smear contaminations of other psychoactive substances.

Conclusion 2021

- In the DIZ Zurich, an increase in samples with synthesis by-products was found in 2021 in the ecstasy tablets as well as in the crystalline MDMA samples. One possible reason for this could be that the manufacturers in the laboratories are under time pressure and work improperly when synthesising MDMA. Another possible reason could be the lack of know-how in dealing with different manufacturing processes of MDMA. Also, new ways of synthesising MDMA have become known in recent years, where synthesis by-products might be more likely.
- The crystalline samples and tablets analysed at the DIZ mostly have a very high MDMA content. It is all the more important to pay attention to the dosage. No more than 1.5 mg MDMA per kg body weight for men and 1.3 mg per kg body weight for women should be consumed. More than this increases the risk of adverse health effects.
- The percentage of MDMA samples handed in at the DIZ has remained constant despite club closures during the pandemic. The cliché that MDMA is an exclusive "club/party drug" does not seem to be true.
- Since 2013, the average MDMA content in ecstasy tablets has risen steadily. In 2021, this value fell slightly again for the first time. Currently, the content in 2021 is 174.5 mg MDMA. At such a level, however, there is still a high risk of overdose.
- In 2021, the DIZ analysed an increasing number of tablets that looked identical in appearance (logo, shape and colour) but had different MDMA contents and contained unexpected ingredients. In some cases, there were differences in content of up to 219 mg MDMA in tablets with the same appearance. One assumption could be that the demand for certain tablets was high and the production sites (drug labs) had to produce many ecstasy tablets under time pressure. We suspect that the crystalline MDMA was irregularly distributed (stirred) into the tabletting mass. Marketing reasons are also conceivable.

More information and details can be found in the detailed report below. In addition, the most important information is summarised compactly on a graphic.


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