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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Ecstasy deaths 'double in year'
Ecstasy
Tablets as cheap as 1 are available
Ecstasy-related deaths in England and Wales have reportedly doubled in the past year, according to new figures.

There were at least 40 deaths related to the drug last year - twice the total reported in 2000.

And the 2001 figures were almost four times as many as in 1998.

Cheaper ecstasy prices, stronger forms of the drug and younger users have all contributed to this rise, a spokesman for St George's Hospital in London said.

The hospital's Centre for Addiction Studies has compiled the figures based on deaths reported to coroners.

The finding comes the day after it was reported that ecstasy tablets can be bought for as little as 1 in some parts of England.

Two weeks ago 10-year-old Jade Slack, of Lancaster, died after she accidentally swallowed ecstasy.

The hospital spokesman said: "The rise comes at the same time as ecstasy becomes cheaper and is used more recreationally in the dance culture by people who wouldn't normally take it."

He said stronger forms of ecstasy, including paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), were now being used.

More than 40 people suffered Ecstasy-related deaths in 2001, compared to 20 deaths during 2000, according to the research led by consultant psychiatrist Dr Fabrizio Schifano.

There were 17 deaths in 1999 and 11 in 1998.

Cara MacDowall, a spokeswoman for the charity Drugscope, said: "The rise in ecstasy deaths is not easily explained by increasing prevalence or contaminated pills.

Precautionary steps

"They could be due to a new generation of clubbers being unaware of how to minimise the risks associated with taking ecstasy.

"Much recent coverage of ecstasy has obscured the real information young people need in order to minimise the risks and decrease the death toll."

The research, based on deaths reported by coroners in England and Wales every six months, is due to be published soon.

Government statistics for ecstasy-related deaths last year to support this research were not available.

On Sunday the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit (IDMU) warned that the average street price of the drug has fallen to a record low of 3.

And it said the 1-a-pill price was most common in the north west of England.

In May the government ruled out the downgrading of ecstasy, claiming it would lead to a "significant increase in the number of users, especially among the very young".

See also:

29 Jul 02 | UK
29 Jul 02 | UK
16 Jul 02 | England
22 May 02 | Politics
17 Apr 02 | Health
21 May 02 | E-F
18 Dec 00 | Health
14 May 00 | Health
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