Fresh fears over ecstasy substitute PMA after rise in deaths

Significant increase in the number of deaths from 'legal highs'

Health Reporter

More people are dying after taking amphetamines that at any time in the past five years, with a sharp rise in fatalities driven by the increased use of the ecstasy substitute PMA.

Public Health England raised the alarm over the club drug earlier this month, calling evidence of PMA deaths “very concerning”. New figures from the Office for National Statistics figures showed a rise in PMA-related deaths from just one in 2011 to 20 in 2012.

There was also a significant increase in the number of deaths from new psychoactive substances (NPS) – previously known as “legal highs”.

The group of new drugs, including mephedrone, GHB and BZP, most of which were only recently made illegal, were involved in 52 deaths in 2012, up from 29 in 2011.

Overall, there were 2,597 deaths from drug poisoning in England and Wales in 2012, involving both legal and illegal drugs. The majority of drug deaths were accidental, but the figures also account for nearly 1,000 intentional self-poisonings. 

The number of male drug poisoning deaths was down 4 per cent to 1,706. However, the number of women killed by drug poisoning rose by 1 per cent to 891 – the third year in a row the figure has gone up.

Deaths involving heroin or morphine – the biggest killers – fell slightly to 579 deaths – down by one third over five years.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of the charity DrugScope said that despite declines in some areas, evidence of more deaths from certain drugs was worrying.

“The number of deaths involving PMA is, for example, concerning,” he said. “In all probability people would have believed they were taking ecstasy, but PMA is far more toxic while at the same time taking longer to take effect. This can make users believe that the pill isn’t working, encouraging them to increase the dose with sometimes fatal results.”

A third of all drug deaths involved more than one drug, according to coroners’ reports. Alcohol, or long-term alcohol abuse, was also recorded in a third of deaths.

The new report from the ONS was the first to show the geographical spread of drug poisoning deaths.

Mortality rates from drug misuse, involving illegal drugs, were much higher in Wales than in England – with 45.8 deaths per million members of the population, compared to 25.4 in England.

The North-West had the highest mortality rate in England, with 41 deaths per million people.

Mr Barnes said: “No drug equals no risk, but back in the early 1990s when ecstasy was at the height of its popularity among young people on the club/rave scene, there was a body of public health knowledge that would have helped protect people and probably saved lives.

“Much of that knowledge, for example, not increasing dosage and not allowing the body to get over-heated is less known to many of the current generation of club and festival goers. We need to find ways of reminding young people about this type of information, not only in relation to ecstasy, but also to the many other new drugs now available.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Fire & Safety Assessor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: These Fire and Safety Risk Assessment speciali...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Trade Advisers - Yorkshire and Humber

£29500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company in Yorkshire and t...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Resource Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing experience-led technology co...

Recruitment Genius: Production Scientist

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises in the...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable