A drug dealer has spoken to Sky News about dangerous batches of ecstasy after recent deaths and injuries from party drugs.
Authorities are warning of the heightened risk of drug-taking after two clubbers died and a number ended up in hospital last weekend, possibly because of a dangerous high-strength batch of MDMA circulating in the UK.
In a club in Tottenham, north London, a 21-year-old man died after taking an overdose and two others were taken to hospital for treatment.
In Bristol, one man died and 20 were treated in hospital after the first weekend clubs were open.
Such is the gravity of the problem that one drug dealer agreed to meet us.
The man, we will call Sasha, brought with him a kilo of what he purchased as ecstasy on the dark web – but after testing it, he discovered it was a different, potentially more dangerous, substance.
We agreed to protect his identity to get an inside perspective of what’s happening.
He told Sky News: “Normally I think the dark web is a more secure place to buy drugs because of the customer ratings, and you can read reviews and stuff, but I guess, you know, accidents can happen.
“Maybe the guy who sold us this, he got screwed over by his supplier, and then he didn’t bother to test or he was just in a rush, or maybe he couldn’t afford to not sell.”
Many dealers feel the dark web is a safer marketplace than the street because purchasers can leave feedback about the quality of drugs – but Sasha showed us how a test that brings out a black colour on real ecstasy came up blue on his fake substance.
I asked him whether it plays on his conscience that some of the stuff he is selling could end up killing people.
“Well yeah,” said Sasha.
“That’s why I’m doing this now because I want to help get the message out there that not everything that you get is safe even if you think it’s from a reliable source like we did.
“It could still be dangerous.”
Sasha isn’t selling this kilo – which would amount to 10,000 doses and could earn him thousands of pounds. Instead, it is being safely disposed of through a third party.
He said: “I try to do it as responsibly as I can. I figure if someone does at least try to take some kind of responsibility for it when doing it, it’s better than someone who doesn’t, right?”
The so-called “Freedom Day” in England, when nightclubs opened for the first time since lockdown was, for some, the first opportunity to go clubbing in their lives and perhaps their first dabble with illegal substances.
Bristol clubs have put warnings out about dangerous pills on social media feeds. But some campaigners believe that drug checking systems should be set up so young people can test samples of their tablets before taking them.
Anthony Lehane from campaign group Voltface said: “When people are dying, particularly young people, I think we need to try and reduce the harm and you can reduce the harm through sensible policymaking.
“Drug checking is a sensible policy I don’t think people are going to take more ecstasy because they can go and get their tablets tested – more that people who use that drug and might be using it unsafely will be able to use it more safely.
“Also, they’ll be engaging with services with drug workers who know what they’re doing.”
Brothers Jacques and Torin Lakeman, aged 18 and 19, both died on the same night in December 2014 in Manchester after taking an overdose of ecstasy. Their father Ray thinks the drug market should be regulated and taken away from illegal dealers like Sasha.
He said: “There have been so many who have died since my boys have died. And I see these deaths as being preventable, and we’re not going to prevent it by turning around and saying, let’s continue the same way that we’ve always done.
“‘Let’s carry on with this misuse of the Drugs Act’, which has been in effect since 1971, and the deaths are going up. We’ve got more people using recreational drugs. We’ve got more dangerous drugs on the street, and most of these things can be regulated.”
Drug deaths in England and Wales were indeed the highest on record this year.
Christina Gray, director for communities and public health at Bristol City Council, said: “High strength illegal recreational drugs circulating in Bristol and other cities have been causing significant harm, including the sad death of a young person in our city.
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“This has not been the result of any specific drug, but potentially a number of different so-called ‘party drugs’, which continue to pose a significant risk.
“We are working closely with local health bodies and city partners, including local venues and the police, to keep people – particularly young people – safe. Council officers have been visiting venues to help them display signage and offer advice on symptoms to look out for, and what support is available.
“We wish to thank local venues and businesses for their ongoing support in our efforts to reduce drug-related harm.”