It’s not just longer passport queues that are being blamed on Brexit, as researchers say the UK’s exit from the EU, along with Covid-19 lockdowns, caused a dramatic drop the quality of drugs.
A new study found that the quality of MDMA, also known as ecstasy when in pill form, has dropped significantly in the UK since 2021.
What is actually sold
Researchers from The loopa UK drug control agency, found that almost half (45%) of the substances sold as MDMA at UK festivals last year did not contain MDMA at all.
By comparison, in 2019, only 7% of substances sold as MDMA did not contain the drug.
Instead, much of the ‘MDMA’ sold at UK festivals appears to contain either cathinones, a chemical similar to other amphetamines, or simply caffeine.
“The drugs market has been turned upside down by Covid, lockdowns and Brexit combined,” said paper co-author Professor Fiona Measham, chair of criminology at the University of Liverpool and director of The Loop. euro news.
Are blockages to blame?
In 2021, the UK was one of the first European countries to reopen its nightlife after Covid-19 lockdowns. This was also seen as a likely cause for the change in quality of MDMA in the UK.
“COVID-19 shutdowns and the closure of nightlife in the UK have led to a drop in demand for ‘party drugs’ and suppliers have reduced production. Then, as UK nightlife reopened ahead of other European countries, demand outstripped supply,” said Dr Michael Pasco, associate researcher at Cardiff University and co-lead author of the study.
Another one interesting study tested the water supply of seven European cities across the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy during lockdowns and showed there was no decrease in the use of certain drugs like cannabis.
But there was a 50% drop in MDMA use. It’s probably because it’s used as a party drug and naturally there were a lot less parties in those cities during the pandemic.
“We felt that producers reduced production/supply of MDMA during the shutdowns due to lower demand,” Measham explains.
“The demand for MDMA is said to have dropped quite dramatically as festivals, bars and clubs were unable to operate. Then, once UK nightlife reopened after ‘Freedom Day’, demand increased and exceeded supply partly because Dutch pill factories were slow to reopen and partly because the transport network between the UK and the EU was virtually at a standstill. certain products for the same reasons.
How Brexit played a role
But researchers at The Loop believe the supply chain disruptions that have plagued post-Brexit trade are also to blame.
“This has been compounded by Brexit-related supply chain disruptions affecting distribution. During this unprecedented turbulence in the drug market, substances resembling MDMA have been mis-sold to customers who didn’t know,” says Pascoe.
“The entire length of the supply chain was disrupted, from manufacturing to road transport, through supply chains to the festivals, bars and clubs where the party drugs would have been routed,” Measham adds.
The reduction in the number of HGVs transporting items from the EU to the UK has also led to a reduction in the number of trucks used for drug smuggling.
“A lot of British ecstasy enters the country via the Netherlands,” says Measham.
“Part of our reasoning for why 3-MMC and 4-CMC cathinones were so prevalent in 2021 was that they were still technically legal in the Netherlands at the time of data collection.”
“We felt that the greater availability of these substances and the relatively similar appearance/effect profile to MDMA meant that they were easily able to meet the demand for ecstasy,” she says.
The cut of Dutch-grade MDMA in the UK could be pinned on supply chains, suggests Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at the Transform Drugs Policy Foundation.
“Supply chain issues for many products have affected all of Europe, but appear to have been worse in the UK due to Brexit bureaucracy and problems with shipping, HGV drivers etc. .”, he said.
“These supply issues and shortages of many products appear to have resonated in some drug markets, creating an increased incentive for tampering and mis-selling as demand outstrips supply,” Rolles continues. “Rising forgery appears to have been a bigger problem in the UK, suggesting that Brexit may have exacerbated the problem.”
Interestingly, the quality of MDMA did not decline in the same way in the EU.
“We did not detect these same adulterants. Our feeling is that the drugs sent by air were more affected,” said Mireia Ventura, head of the Trans European Drugs Information Project. Vice.
The European Drug Report 2021 from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) found that although there was a decrease in the purity of MDMA across Europe in 2020, the decrease was 88% to 80%, although higher than UK figures.
Figures from the 2022 EMCDDA report will be released later in June.
In The Loop’s study, it is also suggested that changes in exchange values may have prompted the mis-selling of substandard products in the UK.