Background: The use of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), also known as ecstasy, has increased in Norway in recent years. Since MDMA has the potential to be toxic and cause death, we studied whether increased availability and use correlates with the increase in MDMA-associated deaths.
Material and method: The study includes post-mortems with findings of MDMA in blood, linked to information about cause of death from the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry. These data were compared with the number of arrested drug drivers with MDMA detected in their blood as well as annual seizure statistics from Kripos (The National Criminal Investigation Service) in the period 2000-2019.
Results: In the period 2000-2019, MDMA was detected in 142 fatalities, and the cause of death was known for 132 of these. The number of annual MDMA-associated deaths varied from 1 to 18. The median MDMA concentration among the fatalities increased from 1.9 µmol/L (interquartile range (IQR) 0.9 to 5.0) in 2000-2004 to 3.8 µmol/L (1.4 to 12.0) in 2015-2019. In 47/132 (36 %) of cases, MDMA and other central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drugs contributed to the death. Among arrested drug drivers with detected MDMA, the annual number of detected cases was 7-262 in this period, but the median concentration remained stable.
Interpretation: MDMA may have contributed to numerous deaths in Norway. Increased availability, increased use and increased strength of contents seem to be significant.