Deaths Related to MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly): Prevalence, Root Causes, and Harm Reduction Interventions

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MDMA, ecstasy, molly, overdose, harm reduction

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Recent data show that MDMA (3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine) related deaths (MRDs) are on the rise in several countries. This rise in MRDs has caught the attention of public health officials and treatment practitioners. Although MDMA is not a new drug, misinformation regarding the root causes of MRDs is still widespread. For example, MRDs continue to be reported as “overdoses” in the media and by government. This erroneously gives the impression that these deaths are caused by ingesting too high a dose, when in fact MRDs are usually due to factors such as hyperthermia, dehydration, drug interactions, or hyponaetremia. When the real culprits behind MRDs are obscured, we are left with an inaccurate picture about the extent and nature of the risk of consuming the drug. This also inhibits the implementation of effective drug education and risk reduction messages. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to explore MRDs further by: 1) providing a brief history of MDMA, 2) summarizing international prevalence rates of MRDs, 3) discussing factors that contribute to MRDs, and 4) identifying promising interventions to reduce MRDs. The information presented in this paper is particularly important given the international resurgence of recreational MDMA use (as molly) and the renewed interest in the drug’s therapeutic benefits.

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Journal of Substance Use, v. 23, issue 4, p. 345-352