Health officials issue warning on ‘strongest ever’ ecstasy pill

Health officials issue warning on ‘strongest ever’ ecstasy pill

Typical ecstasy tablets (pictured) contain around 118mg to 210mg of MDMA, whereas the Blue Punisher contains up to 477mg.

Health officials have issued fresh warnings to ecstasy users after a tablet was seized in Britain containing almost three times the potency of the average tablet.

While experts suspect the tablet may have been a mistake during the manufacturing process — possibly pressing two tablets together — it reveals the high risks posed to unsuspecting buyers of the drugs.

HSE’s clinical lead on addiction, Dr Eamon Keenan, said the discovery of this tablet, known as a 'Blue Punisher', is against the background of a significant rise in the amount of MDMA — the active chemical — in ecstasy tablets.

In the last number of years in Europe, we’ve seen the potency of substances such as MDMA rising, with much higher levels in MDMA in tablets across Europe — so there’s no reason to think that is not the case in Ireland," he said.

“This particular Blue Punisher, there’s some suggestion it was a mistake, made in error,” he said, adding that, either way, the tablet got out with the other tablets into the drugs market.

Earlier this week, Vice Media reported that the Mandrake drug analysis laboratory at Manchester Metropolitan University had tested a Blue Punisher pill containing 477mg of MDMA.

Described as the ‘strongest ever’ ecstasy pill, the tablet was unusually thick and heavy. Together with the amount of MDMA, experts suspect it may have been a mistake during the ‘pressing’ of the tablets.

Vice reported that the pill was tested as part of a high-potency batch of Blue Punisher pills — ranging in MDMA content from 397mg to 477mg — seized by bouncers across multiple clubs in Manchester.

Analysts found a total of six pills that contained 477mg of MDMA in one bag at one of the clubs.

Dr Keenan said: “Obviously this is a concern. 

"We’ve been looking at the advice we have been giving out to those that use — if you are taking drugs, start slow.

Sometimes, we say ‘take half a tablet’ and see the effects first, but if this is the type of potency that can be out there, we’d have to say ‘take a quarter of a tablet to start.” 

Earlier this year, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said that, in 2019, the average drug content in ecstasy tablets seized in Europe ranged from 118mg to 210mg of MDMA.

It said the average quantity of MDMA in tablets has jumped by 149% since 2009.

Dr Keenan said the rise in purity — and the increased detection of other, often stronger, stimulants in ecstasy tablets — highlights the need in Ireland for “real-time drug monitoring”, which the country does not have, so health messages and warnings can be put out quickly to users.

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