8 Alberta deaths linked to ecstasy-like drug

A 38-year-old Red Deer man is dead after taking what he thought was ecstasy, the eighth death in southern Alberta linked to the drug. The drug actually contained a notoriously toxic amphetamine that is often called 'Death.'

Victims think they are taking ecstasy, but actually ingesting 'Dr. Death'

An eighth death in southern Alberta has been linked to an ecstasy-like drug.

In all cases the victim thinks they are taking ecstasy — methylenedioxymethamphetamine, known as MDMA — but the drug actually contains high levels of paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA), a notoriously toxic amphetamine that is often called "Dr. Death."

On the street, MDMA is often called ecstasy, usually referring to branded pills and sometimes thought to be a "dirtier" version of MDMA, containing other unknown substances.

RCMP released details Tuesday of a 38-year-old Red Deer man who died Dec. 10. The "dominant" drug in the man's system was PMMA.

The death is the latest attributed to the drug in a six-month period.

PMMA is five times as toxic as MDMA. The initial effects often take longer to kick in and are milder than when using MDMA, often leading users to take more of the drug.

A ninth death in Strathmore, 45 minutes east of Calgary, is being attributed by police to an ecstasy overdose. PMMA was not found in the victim’s system.

Toxicology reports released Monday linked a seventh death in the Calgary area to PMMA. The man was identified as Southern Alberta Institute of Technology student Cody Gorlick, 23.

Calgary police are also investigating another death they suspect is linked to the drug after a 37-year-old man was found dead on Sunday. Two people who were partying with the man remain in hospital.

"The two people who did not pass away from that residence, that are currently in hospital, are in very serious condition," said Calgary police Staff Sgt. Mike Bossley.

Two young Edmonton women were also taken to hospital Saturday morning after taking ecstasy.

Since April 2011, there have been more than 450 ecstasy-related emergency room admissions in Alberta.

More deaths in B.C.

In B.C., 18 people have died after taking the drug in the last six months. Of those deaths, five have been linked to PMMA. 

RCMP in the Northwest Territories warned the public about the drug Friday.

"From what we've seen in these cases, and it's very apparent, is that the drug [ecstasy] is not just used at raves anymore, it's used by people in their homes, it's used at bars, it's used at all kinds of different locations," said Bossley.