Candy Drug Hits the Streets

The 18-year-old high school student died on Mother's Day. Her mother spent the night before helplessly watching. Her daughter's body temperature reached 108 degrees. Her blood cells boiled. She bled from her mouth. Was it a rare tropical fever that had caused such a horrible death? No. It was a little tan tablet called PMA.


Paramethoxymethamphetamine, or PMA, is an illegal synthetic hallucinogen with effects similar to Ecstasy. PMA is made in clandestine laboratories. It has seen limited use since the 1970s, but has recently become popular with teenagers and the rave culture. The drug is usually sold in a tablet form with the Mitsubishi diamond emblem stamped into it. Most PMA tablets are tan, and are a little bigger than an aspirin.

Hidden Danger

The dance drug business has never been better. Every year more and more high school students are lining up at rave club doors. Once inside dance drugs such as Ecstasy, GHB, and Special K are easily purchased. Stricter Government control of chemicals used to make Ecstasy have made them expensive and difficult to buy. Illicit drug chemists and manufacturing operations sought out alternatives. PMA was the answer.

Ecstasy is the most popular dance drug. Ecstasy's so called pleasant effects, and its appearance, are similar to PMA. The similarities end here. Most dance drugs raise body temperature, but PMA can send it soaring to 108 degrees. Since the chemicals to make PMA are easier to find, it's cheaper to make. PMA is sold as Ecstasy. PMA tablets can be made for less than a dollar, whereas Ecstasy tables cost two to three dollars to make.

Drug dealers do not care if they hurt or kill teenagers, as long as they are making money. They rely on fast transactions and dimly lit corners inside rave clubs to mask their deadly dealings. By the time a teenager realizes he or she has made a serious mistake, it is too late. Depending on purity and dosage, the teenager could spend the rest of his or her life boiling to death internally on a rave club floor. Having made their money, the dealers would have moved on to another rave club before anyone knew what happened.

In lower doses PMA causes users to feel euphoric and energized. These effects are similar to Ecstasy. Users tend to want to kiss and hug each other. This often leads to sexual activity -sometimes right on the dance floor. People who use PMA and Ecstasy say that their sense of touch, smell, and sight are more acute. Others report mild hallucinations and intense desires to sit for hours watching the rave club's lightshow.

Purity and dosage amount varies from tablet to tablet. Even tablets from the same batch of PMA vary. One tablet will provide a user with the experience he or she is looking for, while the next one out of the bag will kill the unlucky teenager who chooses it.

But That's Not All...

Every new law passed banning a certain chemical needed to make a popular dance drug sends basement chemists racing downstairs to circumvent it. Once in his basement, the mad chemist begins substituting chemicals until he concocts something that works. One such drug is 2-CB.

2-CB was an attempt to get around the laws banning Ecstasy. The effects are similar, but the manufacturing process produces hard to control dosages. 2C-B usually comes in pill form, but is sometimes available in powder. Technically speaking it isn't a "new" drug, since it was developed in the mid seventies. It is new to the rave crowd, and wasn't put on the DEA's Schedule One list until the mid nineties.

As the chemicals to make Ecstasy and Ecstasy-like drugs become harder and harder to find, other drugs will find their way into rave clubs and your school. Yaba is the latest thing in some parts of the country. Like many drugs before it, Yaba will find its way into every city and school.

Yaba is basically a synthetic Methamphetamine-like drug, however, it has been know to produce disturbing and realistic hallucinations. Ravers call these "eyelid movies." This drug is particularly dangerous because it is simple to make. You can find just about everything you need to make it around the corner at your grocery store.

The main ingredients are salt, household cleaning products, distilled cold medicines, and lithium from camera batteries. Any kid with a D or better in chemistry can follow the formula using two of his mother's casserole dishes. Worse than that, food coloring, sweeteners, and artificial aromas are usually added, making the pills look, smell, and taste like candy. This is sure to make such a hard drug more appealing to middle and even elementary school students.

What Can be Done?

The police will continue to take small amounts of Ecstasy, PMA, 2C-B, and Yaba off the streets. Lucky teenagers who survive overdoses can undergo drug treatment. But that won't make much of a difference. What will make a difference and save young lives are parents like you. Educate yourself about Ecstasy, PMA, 2C-B, and other drugs. Then educate your kids. You must make a difference.

About the Author

Jeff Morelock is a former police narcotics detective who spent several years working undercover drug investigations. He is currently a drug prevention consultant and lecturer. His undercover assignments included posing as a high school student to investigate drug sales in a Florida high school, and infiltrating rave clubs where Ecstasy and other drugs were being sold.

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