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Club Drug Harm Reduction - Common Adulterants in Cocaine, MDMA and Amphetamine

Is club drug harm reduction really necessary? Well, here's an unsettling fact that argues for caution: if you take an MDMA tablet you have a roughly 1 in 3 chance of that your tablet will contain no MDMA, and instead be a mystery psychoactive substance.

You don't always get what you expect - so you need to be careful out there.

  1. Clubbing harm reduction groups in three countries did drug testing analysis on a total of 1690 samples at party sites across Europe during the period from January to May 2012.
  2. While some drugs were often pure (such as crystal MDMA) other drugs, like cocaine and amphetamines, were highly adulterated.

Read on to find out:

  • What’s commonly added to club drugs like MDMA, cocaine and amphetamines.
  • How to test your drugs for purity.
  • Some general club drug harm reduction techniques

What in Those Drugs?

A breakdown of what researchers found in common club drugs.1


Based on an analysis of 413 samples:

  • The average purity level was 49%. 5% of samples were pure cocaine, 4% had no cocaine at all and 91% were a mixture of cocaine and adulterants.
  • 40% of cocaine samples contained 3 or more adulterants.
  • 29% of samples contained levamisole (a veterinary drug).
  • 21% contained phenacetine (a once common pain reliever now banned for linkages to certain cancers and kidney damage).
  • 19% contained caffeine.
  • 18% contained local anesthetics like lidocaine, teracaine and procaine.

If you can't control your cocaine use, learn what's happening in your brain with cocaine addiction.

MDMA Pills

Based on an analysis of 196 samples:

  • The average MDMA dosage in a pill was 102 mg.
  • 61% of samples were pure MDMA, 11% contained MDMA and adulterants and 28% contained no MDMA and were composed of other psychoactive substances.
  • 34% of samples contained at least one of: 4-MEC, mephedrone, methylone, alpha-PPP and dimethylcathinone.
  • 20% of samples contained caffeine.
  • In samples that contained no MDMA, the psychoactive substances most commonly observed were m-CPP, PMA*, methylone and mephedrone.

*PMA Risks

PMA is a drug that works similarly to MDMA, and so it’s sometimes sold as MDMA to unsuspecting users. Unfortunately, PMA is more toxic than MDMA and has a lower lethal dose, and to worsen this situation, PMA takes longer to kick in than MDMA, leaving people at risk of re-dosing when not feeling high-enough at first.2


Based on an analysis of 407 samples:

  • The average purity level was 14%. 9% of samples contained pure amphetamine, 80% contained amphetamine plus adulterants and 11% contained no amphetamine.
  • 68% of samples contained caffeine.
  • 5% contained unknown substances.
  • 3% contained paracetemol.
  • 3% contained 4-methylamphetamine.

If use has become addiction, learn about meth withdrawal and meth addiction treatment.

Testing Your Drugs – Benefits and Drawbacks

Reagent testing can reassure you that drugs contain the correct active substance – but they will not identify possibly dangerous adulterants.

If you take drugs like MDMA and if legal in your area (in some jurisdictions drug testing kits are considered drug paraphernalia) you may want to consider investing 20$ or so toward the purchase of a drug testing kit.3

To use a reagent drug testing kit you mix a small tablet scraping or quantity of the powder drug to be tested with a reagent liquid, and based on the color the liquid turns, you will know which chemicals are present.

However, although these kits can help you identify a pill’s primary substance, they may not help you identify unknown adulterants added to the pill – so just because a pill tests positive for MDMA, for example, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also contain a dangerous adulterant.

Staying Safe with Club Drugs

Beyond testing your drugs, the following ideas may also decrease your odds of serious problems:4

  • Don’t take a new drug unless you know what to expect from the high. Educate yourself first.
  • Before you take drugs, have a plan for getting out and getting home safely.
  • Be cautious taking drugs, especially drugs you aren’t familiar with, in loud and intense settings, such as at concerts or clubs. If things get uncomfortable in your head the surroundings can exacerbate the situation.
  • Be cautious when mixing drugs. This increases the odds of an adverse reaction.
  • Think twice before taking drugs when feeling unsure or anxious about it - this can increase your odds of a bad trip and an unpleasant or even dangerous experience.
  • Use with friends you trust and don’t leave while high with people you don’t know
  • Give it time to kick in before taking more. Some drugs can take 45 minutes or longer to start showing effects. You can always take more down the road if you choose to, but you can’t un-take what’s already in your body. Re-read the section on PMA above to emphasize the importance of this point!
  • Take regular dancing breaks and get enough non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Never share injection or sniffing tools.

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