Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Party Pill Lottery

As early teens growing up, we are educated from an early age in high school that drugs are bad and that we should always say no to drugs.
But when told not to do something, its human nature to be curious and try it. Hence why when I was growing up I broke many photo frames as a child constantly kicking a soft football around the house wh


MDMA tablets come in many different “appealing” looks. Source:

en I was forbidden to by my mother.

This may also be a key reason as to why so many people do illegal drugs even though they have been educated on them and told not to partake in such risky behaviour.


MDMA is one particular drug that many people experiment with in todays society.
Just like you (I presume), I know many people who have drug problems, have had drug problems or who take drugs safely without consequences. I do not condone taking drugs, but I certainly don’t judge anyone on their life decisions.
According to the Australian Drug Foundation  “more than 10 per cent of Australians aged over 14 years have used ecstasy one or more times in their life,” and within regional there was a 60 per cent increase in ecstasy related ambulance intakes in regional Victoria during 2012-13. So it just shows how common it is and likely that you or I have ran into someone who dabbles in such sort of behaviour.

But whats the history behind this drug and how has its chemical make up changed since its introduction to the world? And what are the solutions to turn around current trends around drug use?

Originally patented in 1913 as a diet pill by a German chemical company Derck, it was never released for sale.
In 1971 Dow Chemist employee and biochemist Alexander Shulgin began researching MDMA as a psychoactive drug for therapeutic reasons. He described it as coming “closest to fulfilling his ambition to find the perfect therapeutic drug.”
Shulgin is also believed to be the first known person to try MDMA.
On July 1st, 1985, MDMA was placed on the prohibited list by the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

Fast forward to present day and MDMA has become one of the most popular drugs across the globe. Even though its still illegal, MDMA is an easy drug for people to make and an easy drug to make a quick buck off. On some parts of the web, boxes of MDMA can be ordered online, from one click of a button. Crazy stuff when you think of how easy that is. It’s also no wonder that party goers are taking a few pills on a night out as an alternative to the binge drinking there way out of pocket. These drugs are extremely cheap at around $25 a tablet, extremely accessible, supposedly extremely fun and supposedly safe.

The key ingredient in 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, a substance in these party pills that alters chemical levels in the body and allow people to hit the highs they seek by releasing three neurotransmitters.
But since drugs are illegal to sell, take, as well as make. There is no regulation or standards on MDMA tablet productions or their ingredients.
We all hear stories of a dirty kitchen with some dodgy person in a hazmat suit who did chemistry in year 9 making drugs that are cut with battery acid, dishwashing powder and rat poison. “No way would that be true” people say, unfortunately though ingredients other then MDMA are frequently found when tablets are tested.

To make maximum profit, people who are making these drugs use cheap and dangerous substitutes or fillers in the pills so they can sell more tablets. Although likely to have knowledge of this taking place many consumers overlook this fact and go ahead with taking these mystery pills.
The truth is MDMA today is cut with a number of fillers. According to VICE NEWS the average purity level of an MDMA tablet in Australia recorded at only 18.9% in 2011-12, other sources such as DrugText reported an average of 34% but a range from 1-85%. The documentary “What’s in my baggie” discovered that most tablets were found to have no MDMA in them at all. The purity levels have such a high discrepancy due to the fact there is no regulation or standards on MDMA due to its prohibition.

According to a number of government reports, cheap substitutions found in MDMA include

  • synthetic cathinone (bath salts)
  • ketamine
  • other methamphetamines
  • LSD


    Lack of education and regulation are making “party pills” dangerous to consumers. Source: nexusilluminate.blogspot

  • caffeine
  • over the counter medicines

This is what makes taking these drugs so unpredictable, no two pill is the same and no one can predict how different consumers may react to taking them. Take a case that happened in Wangaratta, Australia. My beautiful local township. Jordan Hurdes, a 20 year old boy who delved in drugs regularly, only to wake up one morning from a night out with uncontrollable muscle spasms and a stutter. A video of Jordan went viral and people took note. Well some people. Many had heard stories of Jordan’s antics and believed there was no way ‘one ecstasy pill’ did this to him. Although this may have been the case, his story was more or less to promote the dangers and the unknowns that these party drugs can have. Some people may go on benders and be fine, some may take one pill and be hospitalised within hours. It’s just the lottery of the pill.

Luckily for Jordan he made a full recovery. Jordan’s case isn’t rare, I don’t have to mention the number of cases of people dying or the close calls that take place at Australian music festivals from these party drugs. According to the Australian Drug Foundation “more than 10 per cent of Australians aged over 14 years have used ecstasy one or more times in their life,” and within regional there was a 60 per cent increase in ecstasy related ambulance intakes in regional Victoria during 2012-13.

So some key questions to think about are what can society do to prevent these cases from happening? Is the answer to introduce even harsher penalties for drug crimes such as trafficking and possession? Do we look at penalties for people even consuming them? Or does the government go opposite way and look at a different path of regulation and higher education?
Either way it starts with people being educated on what is happening in today’s society and the risks that they take with illicit drugs.


Julian Morgans, May 9, 2014 , VICE NEWS, ‘Why drugs in Australia are shitty and expensive.’ Retrieved May 7th 2016 <>

Narconon, ‘Ecstasy History.’ Retreived May 7th, 2016<>

National Institute on Drug Abuse, ‘Drugs, Brains, and Behaviour: Science and Addiction.’ Retrieved May 7th 2016 <>

Paul Dillon, Drug Text, ’10 years of ecstasy and other drugs in Australia: What have we done and what is there left to do?’ Retrieved May 7th, 2016 <>

Ryan Bassil, Vice News, ‘Whats In My Baggie?’ Retrieved May 7th ,2016


Marissa Calligeros, 2015, The Age,  ‘Jordy Hurdes begs young Australians not to take ecstasy in viral video on Facebook,’ November 24th. Retrieved May 8th, 2016


One comment on “Party Pill Lottery

  1. ksmyt
    May 9, 2016

    This blog post was really good! Your anecdote at the start about how its human nature to test the limits is definitely relate-able. I also think it was a good topic for this audience as im sure people are aware of this sort of activity going on at clubs and so on. I also never knew how ecstasy came to be and tat it was originally intended as a diet pill. Im now interested to look further into it so i can understand more. You wrote very well and everything made sense.


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This entry was posted on May 9, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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