Death rates from ecstasy (MDMA, MDA) and polydrug use in England and Wales 1996-2002

Hum Psychopharmacol. 2003 Oct;18(7):519-24. doi: 10.1002/hup.528.


The present study reports on all deaths related to taking ecstasy (alone, or in a polydrug combination) occurring in England and Wales in the time frame August 1996-April 2002. Data presented here are based on all information recorded in the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (np-SAD) database. The np-SAD regularly receives all information on drug related deaths in addicts and non addicts from coroners. A total of 202 ecstasy-related fatalities occurred in the chosen time-frame, showing a steady increase in the number of deaths each year. The ratio male:female was 4:1 and 3 of 4 victims were younger than 29. In 17% of cases ecstasy was the sole drug implicated in death and in the remaining cases a number of other drugs (mostly alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines and opiates) have been found. According to toxicology results, MDMA accounted for 86% of cases and MDA for 13% of cases; single deaths were associated with MDEA and PMA. This is the largest sample of ecstasy related deaths so far; possible explanations are given for the observed steady increase in ecstasy-related deaths and a tentative 'rationale' for this polypharmacy combination is then proposed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine / poisoning*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / mortality*
  • Benzodiazepines / poisoning
  • Cannabinoids / poisoning
  • Cocaine / poisoning
  • Drug Interactions
  • England / epidemiology
  • Ethanol / poisoning
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / poisoning*
  • Heroin / poisoning
  • Humans
  • Male
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / poisoning*
  • Wales / epidemiology


  • Cannabinoids
  • Hallucinogens
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ethanol
  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine