Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-related fatalities in Australia: demographics, circumstances, toxicology and major organ pathology.

Kaye S, Darke S, Duflou J.

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2009 Oct 1;104(3):254-61. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.05.016. Epub 2009 Jul 14.

AIM: To examine the demographic characteristics, circumstances, toxicology and major organ pathology of MDMA-related deaths in Australia. METHODS: Retrospective review of cases in which MDMA was a cause of death, as identified from the National Coronial Information System. RESULTS: 82 cases over a 5-year period were identified. The majority of decedents were male (83%), with a median age of 26 years. Deaths were predominantly due to drug toxicity (82%), with MDMA the sole drug causing death in 23% of cases, and combined drug toxicity in 59% of cases. The remaining deaths (18%) were primarily due to pathological events/disease or injury, with MDMA a significant contributing condition. Cardiovascular pathology, typically atherosclerosis, was detected in 58% of decedents, with moderate-severe atherosclerosis in 23% of cases. The prevalence of such pathology is higher than that expected among similarly aged members of the general population. Cerebrovascular pathology, primarily cerebral haemorrhage and hypoxic damage, was present in 12% of cases. CONCLUSIONS: MDMA has contributed to a clinically significant number of deaths in Australia. The prevalence of cardiovascular pathology was similar to that among methamphetamine and cocaine fatalities. Whilst cardiovascular pathology may reflect the use of other stimulants, the cardiotoxic properties of MDMA have been well-documented. Future studies examining MDMA-related morbidity and mortality in the context of other risk factors are recommended. Overall, the current study highlights the need to educate users about the potential harms of MDMA use, particularly that in conjunction with other stimulants, opioids and alcohol, which are known to increase overall toxicity.

PMID: 19604654

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.