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Strychnine Found in Dutch Ecstasy

24 February 2000

Ministry of Health Warns of Strychnine Found in Dutch Ecstasy

The Ministry of Health is warning users of illegal drugs about the added danger they may be exposing themselves to after Dutch authorities found strychnine in a sample of MDMA (Ecstasy) in Holland.

The New Zealand Customs Service advise that most of the Ecstasy smuggled into New Zealand comes from Western Europe, particularly Holland.

Strychnine, which is now only used as a rat poison, is deadly in quite small doses. Two tablets, each containing the amount reported from the Dutch sample, could be fatal.

"This issue highlights the danger with illegal drugs. The consumer has no idea what he/she is buying and they should realise that they could be putting themselves at serious risk of injury or death", said Dr Bob Boyd, Chief Advisor - Safety and Regulation.

The Ministry of Health has been testing Ecstasy, seized by the New Zealand Police and Customs, since August 1999 as part of the National Drug Policy. There has been no evidence of strychnine found in the tablets seized to date, although this could be due to the small size of the sample, or maybe the adulterated tablets have yet to make it to New Zealand. However, a wide variety of substances including caffeine and ketamine, anaesthetic medicine also used as an animal tranquilliser, have been found.

Ecstasy use has been increasing and the Ministry has undertaken this testing to better determine the public health dangers associated with this drug, said Dr Boyd.

The analysis, carried out by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd (ESR), provides details of all active ingredients, weight, purity and drug quantity.

The Dutch sample in which strychnine was found was seized on January 28. The tablet was yellow in colour with dark brown flecks and had no logo. It had a diameter of 9mm and a thickness of 4.4mm.

Testing of Ecstasy in will continue until the project ends in August. By then the Ministry expects to have a clearer picture of the public health dangers posed by Ecstasy. The Ministry has also released safety guidelines for dance party goers and promoters. Copies of these are available by calling (04) 496-2277.


For more information contact: Rebecca Wilson, Media Advisor, ph: 04-496-2067, pager: 025-495-989 Internet address:

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