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Erowid Note, Jan 2004: Below is an article by Nicholas Saunders from 1994 about the persistent, but mostly unfounded, rumor that many ecstasy pills contain heroin. The article is now out of date, but still represents an interesting and useful discussion of the issue at the time. [Back to Ecstasy Pills That Contain Heroin? Little Data to Support Rumor]

From: Nicholas Saunders 
Date: Sun, 27 Nov 1994 10:43:13 GMT
Newsgroups: alt.drugs
Subject: Ecstasy spiked with heroin and other rumours

This is an edited version of an article in December issue of Eternity magazine 


You've probably heard stories of E being spiked with addictive and
poisonous substances. True, when you buy "Ecstasy" there's no quality
control and you may well get cocktails of other drugs, particularly when
the dealer has run out of MDMA. You may also get a dud. But not heroin or

Every day the police confiscate suspect drugs which are sent to a
forensic laboratory at Aldermaston specially equipped to detect drugs,
and they have never come across drugs sold as Ecstasy containing heroin.
People taken to hospital with possible drug problems have samples of
their blood sent to the National Poisons Unit which has special equipment
to detect drugs: heroin has not been found in the blood of patients
reported to have taken only Ecstasy. So how did the rumours start?
A year ago Time Out magazine ran a double page feature entitled "Bitter
Pills", subtitled "Ecstasy has turned to agony for thousands of E users"
as dealers spike tablets and capsules with heroin, LSD, rat poison and
crushed glass. The story was repeated all over the place, even in a
Danish newspaper.

I questioned the source quoted: Stephen Beard of the Newham Drugs Advice
Project. He was elusive, and when I finally I got him on the phone would
only say that the story came from a dealer who said he made fake Ecstasy
by crushing light bulbs. There was no supporting evidence such as lab
tests or reports from doctors who had treated users. The National Poisons
Unit told me there had been no recent cases of poisoning due to ground
glass or rat poison. Yet, in spite of my protests, Newham and Time Out
did nothing to correct the story. Likewise, Mixmag's recent feature on
Ecstasy omitted to mention the Glasgow tests showing that Ecstasy was not
contaminated, even though they had the results. Mixmag also said: "300 mg
MDMA can kill a small girl" (the lowest lethal dose recorded in animal
trials was 20 mg/kilo, or 300 mg for someone weighing 15 kg: a very small
girl); and "MDA is like strong LSD mixed with speed" (MDA has no LSD-like
effects, it is similar to MDMA but longer lasting and with less warmth).
Its as though no-one wants to undermine the established myths.
One of these came from a satirical song in the fifties called The Old
Dope Peddler: "He gives the kids free samples because he knows full well,
that today's young innocent faces will become tomorrow's clientele". Its
no more likely than your local wine merchant going to the trouble and
expense of injecting bottles with heroin, hoping that you will become an
addict to boost his sales. True, some dealers cheat by selling any old
white powder as Ecstasy, but cheats are unlikely to sell heroin at a loss
or go to the trouble of crushing light bulbs.

Most of the substitutes found in Ecstasy are not harmful, but can produce
unexpected effects. However, before you blame the pill, you should
realise just how important is the situation and you own expectations. In
fact, very few people realise and accept how much the effect of drugs
like Ecstasy depends on their own situation, and state of mind at the
time. My best E experience was caused by an identical tablet as one that
made a friend sick and another that had no effect (at a party in an
enclosed tunnel).

Remember that E is not simply a happy pill, but lowers your defences and
allows you to open up. However, it may be more comfortable to remain
defensive and reserved unless you are in a situation where you feel good.
E can bring up suppressed feelings which you may not be prepared to face.
More on situations to avoid and emotional dangers next month.
Deaths in Scotland

I have been trying to discover what caused the deaths at Hanger 13 - so
as to inform people and prevent more tragedies. I have even spoken to say
they know but can't tell because, mad though it seems, Scottish law
prohibits them from revealing cause of death. However, the Home Office
licensed Glasgow University to collect and analyse 15 samples of
"Ecstasy" after the deaths. 14 were pure MDMA and one was a capsule that
contained speed with just a trace of MDMA. So it seems unlikely that
these deaths were due to poisons sold as Ecstasy. Incidentally, doctors
who had talked to users of "Rhubarb and Custard" said they believed it
contained "MDMA plus a strong hypnotic" (e.g. heroin). In fact it was
pure MDMA.

A possibility, believed by the National Poisons Unit, is that these
people died from overheating which has been the cause of nearly all rave
deaths, particularly in clubs with nonstop hard core techno, no chill-out
area and no free water. The tragedy is that those people didn't know the
importance of avoiding overheating. The media love to say that people who
take Ecstasy risk dropping dead without warning, but the warning is clear
to those who look out for it: getting too hot. The risk can be avoided by
taking breaks, cooling off and drinking plenty of water. Overheating also
kills people who do not take drugs, but without drugs the discomfort is
more obvious.

Another theory is that the Scottish victims took Temazapam or Valium with
Ecstasy. Reports say the two taken together can "hit you like a hammer".
The lesson is: "Don't mix E with other drugs and don't take too much too

My book E for Ecstasy is completely sold out, but a revised edition is
freely available on Internet in two locations. You can download the book
in two files located at:
and e.for.ecstasy.append.Z. You can also browse through the book
on-screen and find references using hypertext: use World Wide Web and do
a Lycos search for Ecstasy. The next printed edition is due by the end of
February 1995.
[Erowid Note: "E for Ecstasy" can now be found online at Erowid.]