Experts warn of identical pills containing different drugs in the UK

Drug testing charity The Loop is warning UK clubbers of identical-looking pills which contain different chemical substances.

It found four sets of pills in circulation at a Manchester event that looked like the same batch, but all were made with different drugs.

Users might buy more pills after an “ok experience” it warns, but end up with something totally different.

An MDMA shortage may be driving a massive shift in the UK drug market.

MDMA is a class A drug in the UK and possession can result in a jail sentence or unlimited fine.

Professor Fiona Measham, chair of criminology at Liverpool University and the director of The Loop, tells Newsbeat it: “tested some pharaoh pills, almost identical in pressing, but the four different colours were four different contents.”

“Only one contained what people probably wanted, MDMA”

‘Very different experiences’

Professor Measham says this creates a huge safety problem.

“People might buy a pill and have no idea what is in it and have very different experiences.”

“They might try to buy more of a pill after an ok experience and then what they get might have totally different contents.”

She says people need to know how pills have changed.

“If people can test they should and always have a tiny, tiny dose and wait a couple of hours to see the effect before having more.”

However, she is also clear that the best safety advice is “not to take the drugs.”

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The organisation she runs has specific worries about one substance it found in particular, eutylone.

“It’s potent and can last up to 24 hours,” she says.

“It’s a little bit like MDMA at the start, very mild euphoric effects, which might trick people into thinking it’s mild MDMA so they take more.

“It then moves into a stimulant phase and people become paranoid, anxious and we have even seen people become psychotic.”

MDMA shortage

Drugs experts have seen a shift in the recreational drugs being sold in the UK.

“It’s difficult to overstate how much the drug market has changed since lockdown, Covid and Brexit,” says Professor Measham.

There has been a shortage of MDMA across Europe.

“Partly because of Brexit there is a lack of road haulage and lorry drivers and this has meant for example shortages to milkshakes for Macdonalds, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see similar disruptions to illegal supply chains.”

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