Today's offering for the Reader interested in drug abuse issues is the Psychedelic Research blog. This appears to be a brand-spanking new effort with the first introductory post on May 27 which indicates:
This is a blog to track research and events relating to the scientific study of hallucinogens and consciousness. I hope that documenting my readings here will be interesting or even helpful to others. My writing goals with this blog are relatively modest: I primarily aim to provide abstracts from papers, linking to them whenever possible, with occasional brief comments about what interests me.
So without much track record or content yet, what drew my eye?
It is the blog author of whom the sidebar says:
Matthew Baggott is a graduate student in neuroscience at UC Berkeley and a research associate at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute.
I would also note that another factor that seams to me would be important, is that MDMA is rarely sold pure, with inert fillers. Whether it's ketamine, LSD, heroin, cocaine or something more obscure, it's almost never just MDMA. I can see this really being a complication for research, because it really works out as being several different drugs. It's probably complicated even more by the fact that mistakes are often made in synthesis, which sometimes make their way into directions that that chemist posts somewhere and that version of the drug can become relatively common.
Baggott's most salient contribution to the MDMA literature was one of the first papers to attempt to grapple with the Ecstasy tablet contamination issue.
And it is indeed true, as DuWayne surmises, that some fraction of tablets sold as putative "Ecstasy" contain psychoactive drugs other than 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Sometimes a single non-MDMA psychoactive compound and sometimes several together. Some additional fraction of street Ecstasy tablets contain no MDMA at all and may contain various other drugs. Since you can get this paper from MAPS I won't belabor the specific results. A 2006 paper that presents similar analysis from E.E. Tanner-Smith. The limitation to these analyses, of course, is that they rely on the EcstasyData.org tablet testing service (DanceSafe.org is also cited in Baggott et al 2000 but it is now one dataset). Which relies on recreational users sending them samples for testing. Which introduces any number of relevant biases including a potential uptick in submissions for tablets similar to those that seemingly produced nonMDMA subjective effects and market-share winners.
Data from tablets collected from law enforcement seizures are reported in Camilleri et al, 2005 (Australia), Teng et al, 2006 (Taiwan), Cheng et al 2003, 2006 (Hong Kong), Giraudon and Bello, 2007 (France) and a few more I'm not citing (you can do the PubMed legwork if you like). These analyses concur that some fraction of tablets sold or represented as "Ecstasy" contain drugs other than MDMA. Obviously, the sources of bias in these studies are different but equally likely to disrupt our ability to answer precisely how many Ecstasy tablets available to the street market(s) contain nonMDMA psychoactive constituents.
This is all the long way of saying, go check out the Psychedelic Research blog.