A month out from Electric Daisy Carnival, the Clark County Coroner’s office ruled that the death of a 24-year-old man at the event was caused by MDMA intoxication. According to toxicology tests, no other drugs or substances were found connected to the death of Nicholas Austin Tom, the San Francisco man declared dead at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at around 3:25 a.m. on June 21.
The death, which was ruled to be accidental, isn’t the first at EDC or similar music festivals to be associated with MDMA. But it is one of the more uncommon instances involving MDMA alone. Experts say fatalities attributed to pure MDMA are very rare and are most often caused by overdose rather than the substance itself. Far more typical are incidents in which alcohol, a “bad batch” or pills cut with other substances are involved, all sobering proof of the risks partygoers take with each hit.
According to a new report from Project Know, an organization that promotes substance abuse awareness and information, only about half of 23,500 ecstasy pills tested from five countries contained MDMA or structurally similar substances like MBDB. In the U.S., around 20 percent of pills being passed off as Molly or ecstasy were either cut with or entirely made from some form of amphetamine or other stimulant like piperazine. Around a dozen other substances were reported, ranging from methamphetamine to ketamine to PMA/PMMA, a toxic copycat substance nicknamed “Dr. Death.” The latter compounds are relatively rare, found in less than 5 percent of pills tested in the U.S.
But whether pure or contaminated, they’re all reminders of just how unpredictable the effects of such party drugs can be—and just how broad the blanket terms Molly and ecstasy really are.