Deaths related to ecstasy

Compared with opiate-related deaths, deaths involving ecstasy are relatively unusual but, in some countries, not negligible, and monitoring of these deaths could be improved. The description ‘ecstasy-related death’ could mean that ecstasy was mentioned on the death certificate or that it was found in the toxicological analysis (often along with other drugs) (67).

Although reporting is not harmonised, data from the 2004 Reitox national reports suggest that deaths involving ecstasy are rare in most EU countries, especially deaths involving ecstasy alone. In 2003, several countries reported ecstasy-associated deaths: Austria (one death involving ecstasy only), Czech Republic (one death probably due to an MDMA overdose), France (eight cases associated with ecstasy), Germany (two cases associated with ecstasy alone and eight involving ecstasy in combination with other drugs – with corresponding figures of 8 and 11 in 2002), Portugal (detected in 2 % of drug-related deaths) and the United Kingdom (ecstasy ‘mentioned’ on 49 death certificates in 2000, 76 in 2001 and 75 in 2002). The Netherlands reported seven deaths due to acute psychostimulant intoxication, although the substance involved was not reported.

Few countries report data on hospital emergencies involving ecstasy. In Amsterdam, the number of non-fatal emergencies (Dutch national report) attributable to ecstasy use remained stable between 1995 and 2003 (as did those associated with amphetamines), whereas emergencies caused by hallucinogenic mushrooms and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) increased. In Denmark (national report), the number of hospital contacts attributable to intoxication with stimulants increased from 112 cases in 1999 to 292 cases in 2003; of these hospital contacts, the number associated with ecstasy use increased markedly from 1999 to 2000 but with no clear trend subsequently, whereas the number of contacts associated with amphetamine use increased steadily over the period.

(67) See EMCDDA annual report 2004 for a more detailed discussion of ecstasy-related deaths.