Size Matters: Comparing the MDMA content and weight of ecstasy tablets submitted to European drug checking services in 2012-2021
The MDMA content in ecstasy tablets has increased enormously throughout Europe across the last decade. Despite a growing body of knowledge about the European ecstasy market, it remains unknown whether the increased MDMA content is caused by the production of 'stronger' tablets (more mg MDMA per mg of tablet), or if ecstasy tablets have simply been getting larger and heavier (more mg of tablet in total). This paper aims to answer that question and consider its implications.
10 European testing services that are members of the Trans European Drug Information (TEDI) network contributed to a dataset of 31,716 ecstasy tablets obtained and analysed by their organisations in 2012-2021. The data were analysed to showcase trends in the MDMA mass fraction and weight of tablets.
Our data show that the MDMA mass fraction in ecstasy tablets has remained virtually unchanged over the past 10 years, with increased MDMA contents being attributed almost exclusively to increased tablet weight. Our data also show that these trends seem to be largely uniform across Europe, despite varying sampling and analytical techniques being used by the 10 TEDI testing organisations. The study also shows that while tablet weight correlates near perfectly with MDMA content on a yearly basis, the wide variations in MDMA mass fraction within datasets make such relations irrelevant for determining the MDMA content of individual tablets.
The MDMA mass fraction in ecstasy tablets has remained virtually unchanged over the past 10 years, with increased MDMA contents being attributed almost exclusively to increased tablet weight. This provides a novel insight into the market dynamics of ecstasy tablet production at a transnational level. Additionally, it provides new opportunities for harm reduction given that size is a tangible and apparently accurate characteristic to emphasise that one tablet does not simply equate to one dose.