Media reports of two deaths at the weekend in the same party venue have once again been accompanied by police suggestions that the drug responsible is ecstasy that may be from a "contaminated" batch. Speculation as to the cause of these tragic deaths is unhelpful, and recent experience with mephedrone has shown such preliminary comments are often quite wrong, we will know the truth only when toxicology results are reported.
Ecstasy, the drug of choice for the clubbers of the early 1990s, is making a comeback. Once synonymous with the rave scene, its popularity declined as the diminishing amount of methylenedioxymethamphe-tamine, or MDMA, the potent chemical once found in ecstasy tablets, saw a new generation of clubbers seek alternative substances. At the peak of its popularity, ecstasy was rarely out of the news with the designer drug blamed for a spate of deaths, often wrongly.
Doctors are planning the first clinical trial of ecstasy in the UK, to see whether the drug can be beneficial to the traumatised survivors of child abuse, rape and war. Professor David Nutt, the psychopharmacologist who used to head the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs until he fell out with the Labour home secretary and was sacked, said: "I feel quite strongly that many drugs with therapeutic potential have been denied to patients and researchers because of the drugs regulation."