Fake MDMA has been on the rise at clubs and festivals in the UK since lockdowns have been lifted.
According to drug checking service The Loop, only half of “MDMA” tested at the Lost Village festival in Lincolnshire last weekend actually contained the substance. Instead people were sold a mixture of substitute substances such as 4-CMC, 3-MMC and eutylone – cathinones that can cause anxiety, and paranoia – as well as caffeine crystals.
Meanwhile, similar service Mandrake found other instances of 4-CMC being sold as MDMA during Manchester Pride Festival and the Creamfields music festival and other areas in the city.
Speaking to VICE, Tony Saggers, former head of drugs threat and intelligence at the UK’s National Crime Agency, said this was due to lockdowns slowing demand and therefore causing production to slow down in Holland, a country where lots of drugs are exported from.
“COVID-19 caused a significant lull in demand, while venues were closed and social lives shut down, so Dutch producers will have slowed down, as no-one wants to sit on an excess mountain of an illegal substance,” he said.
“From the last 20 years of working with Dutch law enforcement partners, it’s clear that high UK demand is a major driver of Netherlands-based production and thus the need to access precursor ingredients. When a slowdown happens, producers cease buying pre-cursors and the chemicals required to make them.
“So I’d expect a lull in availability while that subsection of the illicit market regroups and secures inbound supply chains for manufacture, as well as confidence that demand will regenerate.”
He also said drug busts had hindered drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, Fiona Measham, director of The Loop, said MDMA suppliers are struggling to cope with a post lockdown surge in demand.
“It’s a combination of factors including the disruptions to supply chains due to COVID, Brexit, road haulage shortages and the sudden huge demand in the UK after 18 months of very limited partying and party drug use.”
Tom Kiel, a Dutch researcher and journalist specialising in drug policy added that there is no shortage of MDMA in the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain despite a production slowdown.
“There’s currently no noticeable MDMA drought in the Netherlands,” he said .