Ecstasy is more likely to kill young, healthy people than other drugs such as crystal meth and speed according to researchers, who described their findings as a “concern”.

The results came from a paper co-authored by a team from the International Centre for Drug Policy (ICDP) at St George’s, University of London. The ICDP team and colleague Professor Fabrizio Shifano at the University of Hertfordshire’s paper, ‘Overview of Amphetamine-Type Stimulant Mortality Data – UK, 1997 – 2007’, was published online by the journal Neuropsychobiology on 29 January 2010.

The results showed that, although amphetamine (speed) and methylamphetamine (crystal meth) kill more people than ecstasy, ecstasy deaths are more likely to involve young, healthy people. They are also less likely to be known drug addicts.

The ICDP runs the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (np-SAD), which provided the data for the study. The group – including ICDP director Professor Hamid Ghodse, senior research fellow John Corkery, and research assistant Vinesha Naidoo, all of St George’s – reviewed stimulant-related deaths from the np-SAD database and from the British Crime Survey 2001-2007.

Overall, from 1997-2007 they found that there were 832 speed and crystal meth deaths in the UK, and 605 related to ecstasy. The average age of the ecstasy fatalities was 28.3, compared to 32.7 for speed and crystal meth. Almost 92 per cent of those whose deaths involved speed and crystal meth were known drug addicts, compared to just over 82 per cent for ecstasy.

The report noted that deaths seemed to have dropped in 2000 to peak once again over the following years. Then, after another drop in 2003, it increased again.

Commenting on the findings, Prof Schifano said: “These data seem to support the hypothesis that young individuals seem to suffer extreme consequences after excessive intake of ecstasy. This is an issue of public health concern which deserves further studies.”