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Tests to determine if toxic ecstasy killed B.C. boy

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Tests to determine if toxic ecstasy killed B.C. boy

Date: Tuesday Jan. 17, 2012 10:26 AM ET

The British Columbia Coroners Service is investigating whether highly toxic ecstasy that's been linked to a number of deaths in Western Canada claimed the life of a teenage boy in Langley, B.C. over the weekend.

The unidentified boy was out with friends on Sunday when he reportedly took ecstasy, along with other drugs. He collapsed and his friends called 911. Though he was rushed to Langley Memorial Hospital, he could not be revived.

The death comes after a week of B.C. and Alberta health officials warned that some of the ecstasy that's circulating in the West appears to be contaminated with a synthetic chemical called PMMA, or paramethoxy-methamphetamine.

The chemical has been linked to five recent drug deaths in Calgary and at least five deaths in B.C. over the last six months.

The B.C. Coroners Service has asked for toxicology tests to be carried out as soon as possible on the boy who died over the weekend.

The tests will determine whether the boy took ecstasy and, if so, whether the pills contained PMMA. Results may be available within days.

It's not clear whether PMMA is being introduced intentionally or by accident during the ecstasy manufacturing process.

B.C.'s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, told reporters last week that PMMA is something her office hasn't seen before in relation to ecstasy deaths. But she added that the coroners service did not begin testing for PMMA until it was linked to the five deaths in Calgary.

PMMA is a dangerous chemical that can cause the body to heat up to the point of severe brain and organ damage or death. The chemical appears to make the ecstasy take longer to take effect. That can prompt some people to take more pills, resulting in an overdose.

B.C. recently reviewed toxicology findings for 12 ecstasy-related deaths in 2011 and two deaths this year. PMMA was detected in five cases.

In most of the five cases, users had taken other drugs, as well as alcohol. But in one of the five deaths, the individual took only one tablet, prompting Lapointe to point out: "There is no known safe dose."

The coroners service emphasized it has no idea how much ecstasy currently in circulation contains the chemical.

The Canadian Press reports that police in B.C. have noted unique markings on ecstasy pills suspected to contain the lethal additive, but are reluctant to reveal the markings to the public because they don't want users thinking other ecstasy pills are safe.


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