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PMMA Alert - August 2001

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Published On: April 24, 2001          Updated On: January 26, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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Florida Conference On Designer Drugs
April 2001

In April of 2001 a conference was held to inform Florida's law enforcement community about the trends and dangers surrounding Designer Drugs.  The state-wide conference was co-sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area/Central Florida Investigative Support Center, the Orange County Sheriff's Office, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.  

The conference provided excellent information about the law enforcement aspects of drug enforcement.  Unfortunately, the conference was based on the assumption that the abusers of designer drug are primarily criminals who need to be punished.  

Tim Moore, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that "the complexity of Florida's designer drug problem demands a three-prong approach which targets prevention/education, enhanced substance abuse treatment and intensified law enforcement."  In spite lf this, the conference focused mainly on the law enforcement aspect.  It  failed to represent the scientific fact that people who become dependent on designer drugs have an addictive brain disease and require treatment.  It did not adequately highlight the fact that the the most effective policies for controlling substance abuse involve a close working relationship between law enforcement, the courts, and community based treatment providers to assure that all nonviolent drug abusers receive no-nonsense drug treatment that follow science-based guidelines for treatment effectiveness.  

The failure of law enforcement in isolation from community-based prevention and treatment initiatives is highlighted in Commissioner Moore's Statement: "Despite the efforts of law enforcement across the state, drugs are readily available, more accepted and still as dangerous as ever." 

Hopefully, future law enforcement conferences will present a more balanced view point that incorporates the powerful role that mandatory monitored treatment can play in managing the national and state drug abuse problems.

Terence T. Gorski
August 15, 2001

Florida Conference On Designer Drugs

News Release of the 
Florida Department of Law Enforcement

Florida's Statewide Conference on Designer Drugs 
Focuses on Trends in Trafficking, Sale and Distribution

April 24, 2001

News Release

Deadly Variant of Popular Drug Identified in Florida

September 29, 2000

In an attempt to alert the citizens of Florida about a new and extremely dangerous drug that has been attributed to the deaths of at least six people in the state, the Office of Drug Control (ODC) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) are issuing this public safety alert.

Since July, there have been six deaths in Florida associated with an extremely lethal drug substance called PMA, or paramethoxyamphetamine, and PMMA, or paramethoxymethamphetamine.  A more potent variant of the illegal substance known as "ecstasy," PMA/PMMA burns out the central nervous system by raising the user's body temperature to nearly 108 degrees.

A 19-year-old Lake County woman died in August after ingesting PMA. Five hours after her death, her body temperature was recorded at 104 degrees. She may have purchased the drug in the Orlando-area. FDLE's Orlando Crime Laboratory has received one known case where PMA was submitted for analysis.

According to the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, PMA has been used illicitly in Australia since late 1994. It is purportedly sold under the guise of "ecstasy," the common name for MDMA. PMA appears to be more toxic than MDMA.

Identified now for the first time in Florida, PMA was associated with three deaths in the Chicago, Illinois area in May.  Of the six deaths in Florida, two are attributed directly to drug toxicity with these drugs, and four deaths are attributed to multiple-drug toxicity including these drugs.  The Orange County Medical Examiners office reports body core temperatures in the five deaths in Orange County to range from 106 degrees to 108 degrees.

The purpose of this alert is to make the citizens of Florida and the law enforcement community aware of the sudden appearance of this deadly illegal substance. Users of "ecstasy" should be aware that, in the opinion of the forensic toxicologists, no presumptive test kit can reliably determine the presence of either PMA or PMMA in a pill sold as "ecstasy."   The pills bought by the deceased were presumed to be "ecstasy" or "ecstasy" laced with heroin and/or cocaine. 

While "ecstasy" alone is deadly, PMA/PMMA appear to be far more lethal in their toxic effects.  We urge all members of law enforcement, hospitals, poison control centers, and emergency medical technicians to contact their area forensic laboratory or Medical Examiners office for information as to the effects and symptoms associated with these variants of "ecstasy." 

We would like to recognize the following forensic officials for their rapid analysis and alert to the effects of these drugs: Dr. Stephen Nelson, Interim Chairman of the Florida Medical Examiners Commission; Dr. Shashi Gore, District Nine Medical Examiner, Orange County; Dr. Frank Quattrocchi and Ms. Linda Sullivan, Wuesthoff Reference Laboratories; Dr. Valerie Rao, District Five Medical Examiner, Lake County; Dr. Bruce Goldberger, University of Florida Center for Forensic Medicine.

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