Image of MDMA drug pills

The latest festival drug warnings with The Loop

As the UK festival scene gets well under way with the likes of Glastonbury happening this weekend, so too is the inevitable use of recreational drugs.

The Loop, a charity aiming to reduce drug-related harm via healthcare interventions and drug checking, has launched a new campaign specific to the drug MDMA (3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine).

The campaign released today, #SizeMatters, comes from the trends seen so far this summer which show how MDMA is changing and creating potentially greater risks for users.

Katy Porter, CEO of The Loop Drug Checking Service, said: “A key aspect around this is awareness raising, and we’re conscious that there isn’t always information out there about what is currently in circulation.

“We want the messaging and the information to get out there as widely as possible.”

Research from The Loop this year has found some alarming MDMA data.

The average strength of MDMA pills has increased to what it was pre-pandemic ( >180mg MDMA) and the proportion of stronger pills has increased to pre-pandemic levels (>1 in 10 are 250mg+).

Infographic showing the latest drug information about MDMA and ecstasy pills from The Loop
#SIZEMATTERS: The latest warning about MDMA and ecstasy
Image credit: The Loop

Alex Stevens, professor in criminal justice at the University of Kent, said: “I am in support what The Loop is doing as there are always going to be people taking drugs at festivals and it’s best that they have good information about what’s in those drugs so they can take informed decisions about what and how to take them.”

Stevens explained how young people’s drug use has declined over recent decades from a high point in the mid-nineties, but there has been some increase since 2013.

He said: “There’s increasing availability of high potency cocaine and large dosage ecstasy pills so people do need to be cautious about what they’re taking.

“There is also concerning possibilities of adulteration and new substances appearing in the market, powerful tranquilizers like xylazines.”

Data from the Office of National Statistics estimated that in the year ending March 2023, approximately 3.1 million people aged 16 to 59 years reported using a drug in the last 12 months.

Around 1.1 million people used Class A drugs like MDMA.

Porter explained that those considering taking MDMA pills for the first time this year should be aware of how the drug has changed and is now potentially stronger.

An anonymous user of The Loop said: “I went to The Loop and got my drugs tested at a festival.

“Luckily they were what I thought they were but I’m so grateful for services like these as I can feel safer when I know more about what I’m taking.”

The Loop has 56.1k followers on Instagram and uses that platform as a pivotal source for getting information out to young people.  

Porter explained that not all festivals use services like The Loop at the moment for a variety of reasons.

Porter said: “It’s is challenging for festivals at this time in terms of cost of putting on a festival and cost of living.

“We know that some festivals simply can’t afford to have the range of services that they would like to have there, including ourselves so that’s another really important reason for us to be putting messaging out, to be more accessible for everyone.”

Professor Stevens also discussed his thoughts on future education and drug policy, explaining the need for better drug education across UK schools and youth services.

He said: “At the moment, we have good information about what does work, but that’s not done often enough in terms of whole school approaches and giving people not only the knowledge, but the skills they need to deal with risky situations that they come up against in the lives.

“It shouldn’t be left to charities like The Loop to do drug training, it’s very admirable that Professor Fiona Measham (founder and chair of the board of trustees at The Loop) and her colleagues are taking upon themselves to do that, but it should be more socially funded.”

For more information about drug testing and where you can find The Loop visit or follow @theloop_uk on Instagram.

Featured image credit: The Loop

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