Killer PMA back in Aussie clubs

A red mitsubishi found in NSW. Photo courtesy NSW Police
A red mitsubishi found in NSW. Photo courtesy NSW Police
A capsule containing PMA found in NSW. Photo courtesy NSW Police
A capsule containing PMA found in NSW. Photo courtesy NSW Police
Another red mitsubishi found in NSW. Photo courtesy NSW Police
Another red mitsubishi found in NSW. Photo courtesy NSW Police

Club goers beware. If anyone offers to sell you a “Red Mitsubishi”, “Red Killer”, “Dr Death”, a yellow pill with a Euro (‚Ǩ) currency symbol embossed in it, or a pill that it unusually thicker than ones you are used to, just say no.

It’s highly likely that what you are being offered is PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine) and not MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) or ecstasy.

NSW police have renewed a warning issued earlier this year after a toxicology screen revealed the presence of the killer drug in the body of a 20-year old NSW man who died in Canberra last month.

According to information provided to the police, the man in the latest incident is reported to have taken a yellow coloured pill with a Euro (€) currency symbol stamped in it.

In the past reports of pills containing PMA have referred to “Red Mitsubishi’s”, while other street names include “Red Death”, “Mitsubishi Double Stack”, “Red Killer”, “Death”, and “Dr Death.”

Information provided to the NSW police have lead them to believe that the pill involved in the latest incident may have been sourced from NSW.

NSW police Drug Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Greig Newbery, said, “PMA is a highly toxic, highly hallucinogenic amphetamine, which has previously been passed off as MDMA (ecstasy).”

A toxicology test found a large amount of PMA in the body of Sydney northern beaches dance teacher Annabel Catt who died in February this year.

Detective Superintendent Newbery said, “a report from the Division of Analytical Laboratories has indicated the presence of PMA in a small number of tablet seizures made by police this year.”

A handful of PMA overdoses, one near fatal, occurred in Sydney in 2004. Six people died in South Australia in 1998, while at least three deaths have occurred in Queensland after people took PMA they thought was ecstasy.

Deaths have also been reported overseas with six people dying in September 2000 in Central Florida and¬† nine people in Ontario, Canada in the the 1970’s.

Detective Superintendent Newbery said anyone suffering ill effects after taking an ecstasy tablet should seek immediate medical attention.

PMA has similar effects to ecstasy. However, because PMA has a slower onset of effects, several deaths have occurred where individuals have taken a pill containing PMA, followed by a pill containing MDMA, or a second PMA pill, thinking that the first pill was not active.

With PMA breathing becomes rapid, blood pressure and pulse rates become elevated, while body temperature can increase to more than 42 degrees C.

PMA also causes erratic eye movements, muscle spasms, nausea, and heightened visual stimulation

More than one pill is considered by users as lethal, as it can cause Irregular heart rate and heart attack. It can also cause breathing problems and/or pulmonary congestion as well as kidney failure, vomiting, convulsions, coma and or death.

In December 2004 Steven Lacey, a 19-year old from Keith in South Australia died after medical staff at Flinders Medical Centre turned off his life-support-system after he collapsed as a result of a “Red Mitsubishi”.

His body overheated and went into “muscle meltdown” and hospital staff immersed him in ice to reduce his temperature.

According to his father, his temperature soared to 42.2 degrees C, his organs melted, and he died. His father says that when he touched his son’s body a few hours later, he was still hot to the touch.

According to DanceSafe, a respected web-site that promotes health and safety within the rave and night-club community, PMA is being manufactured and sold as ecstasy because the chemicals to make it are easier to obtain than the chemicals to make real ecstasy.

DanceSafe describes PMA as, “one of the most dangerous and toxic hallucinogens known.”

While DanceSafe also claims that all PMA pills so far discovered have been either tan or red in colour and considerably thicker than standard MDMA pills, photo’s from the USDEA web-site show purple coloured PMA pills.

Club goers can screen for PMA, MDMA or a host of other adulterants in their pills using either the Mandelin or  the Marquis Reagent testing kits available online from Enlighten Harm Reduction for people in Australia, or from Pillreports.com for people outside of Australia.

PMA is first reported to have began circulating in Australia in late 1994, 10 years after ecstasy first appeared on the local scene.

However, unlike ecstasy whose origins can be traced back to German chemist Anton K√∂llisch working for drug company Merck in 1912, little is known about the origins of PMA apart from it gradually emerging on the US scene in the 1970’s.

While the US Government, as part of the CIA and the Army’s chemical warfare investigations experimented with ecstasy as a truth serum in the 1950’s, the first reported recreational use of the drug was not noted until the 1960’s

In the middle 1970s, ecstasy was rediscovered by the psychedelic therapy community and used as an adjunct to psychotherapy by psychiatrists and therapists.

Its original name for street sale was empathy, but was changed it to ecstasy because it sounded more marketable.

In 1984 its use started to spread quickly and US college students began to use it regularly. It was even available at bars in Texas.

Since it was not alcohol or nicotine, and could not have a paten applied to it, the US congress passed a law that allowed the DEA to immediately put a ban on any drug it saw as dangerous to public health.

The first item this was applied to was ecstasy and in June of 1985 it was declared illegal. This is despite the His Honour Francis Young, the DEA’s Administrative Law Judge recommendation that physicians be permitted to continue to administer it to their patients.

Though psychiatrists had proven MDMA useful in their treatment, they did not have enough of a case to change the desires of the DEA. The judge recommended that the drug be placed on schedule 3, but it remained a Schedule 1, the most restrictive category, item.

In the US consumption rose from an estimated 10,000 doses in for all of 1976, to more than 30,000 doses a month in the state of Texas alone.

When the rave culture began to pick up on the small Spanish island of Ibiza in 1987 use of ecstasy as the preferred drug of rave and trance party goers really took off. Increased demand, coupled with higher prices for precursor materials, as well as more aggressive policing resulted in insufficient supply and dealers began selling fake ecstasy.

There are approximately twice as many deaths caused by PMA as by MDMA, even though the actual proportion of PMA on the market is only a fraction of that of MDMA.

Club goers are advised to only buy from trusted suppliers and to treat any new pills they come across suspiciously. Better yet, use at least a Mandelin reactant kit to ensure your pill does not contain PMA.

A Mitsubishi-double-stack
A Mitsubishi double-stack. Photo courtesy DanceSafe
Real ecstasy
Real ecstasy. Photo courtesy US DEA
PMA pills sold as ecstasy
PMA pills sold as ecstasy. Photo courtesy US DEA

ENDS:
© John Le Fevre, 2007

Ecstasy testing kits can be purchased by mail from Enlighten Harm Reduction. Residents of other countries should refer to the Pill Reports website. More information on the use of ecstasy testing kits can be found at Chemical Generation. A reprint of the NSW Police warning and photos can be found here.

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Drug deaths • Ecstasy • Illegal drugs • Ecstasy testing kit • MDMA • PMA • Dance culture • Red Mitsubishi • Fake ecstasy • Australian drug deaths • Mitsubishi Double Stack • Yellow Euro stamp ecstasy • Rave culture • drug policies • drug use • narcotics abuse
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John Le Fevre

Deputy editor, Thailand & GMS editor at The Establishment Post

John Le Fevre is an Australian national with more than 35 years experience as a journalist, photographer, videographer and copy editor.

He is currently deputy editor and Thailand / GMS region editor for The Establishment Post

Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me

One Response to "Killer PMA back in Aussie clubs"

  1. Kandi   May 24, 2011 at 6:32 am

    the symbol is “ohm”

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