Aims: The present paper outlines the results of analyses carried out on the content of tablets sold as ecstasy, collected in the Netherlands by the Drugs Information Monitoring System (DIMS) from January 1993 to December 2008.
Methods: During a period of 16 years, the DIMS analysed the content of 33 006 tablets sold as ecstasy that were handed in by numerous individual (potential) substance users. The DIMS results were compared with the results from various seized tablets to determine whether the DIMS is a monitor of the ecstasy consumer market.
Results: The DIMS system appears to be a market monitor that gives an accurate reflection of what is actually available on the hidden Dutch ecstasy market. During 16 years of monitoring, the purity [tablets containing only 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)] was lowest around 1997. During this time-period many tablets contained other substances in addition to or instead of MDMA [e.g. 3,4-methylene-dioxyamphetamine (MDA), 3,4-methylene-dioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA) and N-methyl-a-(1,3-benzodixol-5-yl)-2-butamine (MBDB), amphetamine and caffeine]. From 1998 to 2008, the number of high-dose tablets (> or =106 mg MDMA per tablet) gradually increased. The same holds true for the proportion of tablets that contained only MDMA, reaching the highest levels in 2000 and 2004. After 2004, the purity of ecstasy tablets decreased again, caused mainly by a growing proportion of tablets containing meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP).
Conclusions: The DIMS results provide valuable qualitative information on the content of ecstasy tablets in the Netherlands, and its changes throughout the years. Moreover, the results were used for national and international risk assessments and important warning and prevention activities.