01/16/2012 05:50 EST | Updated 03/17/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. Ecstasy Deaths: Teen Overdose May Be Latest In String Of Deaths


VANCOUVER - Only one day after British Columbia's coroner warned the public a tainted batch of the illegal drug ecstasy has recently killed ten people in two provinces, a 16-year-old boy may have become its latest victim.

The B.C. Coroner's Service says it's investigating whether the death early Sunday in Langley, a suburb of Vancouver, may add to the string of ecstasy-related deaths in Western Canada.

The teen was out with people on Saturday night when it's believed he took the drug, along with other pharmaceutical drugs, according to the coroner.

A few hours later he collapsed, prompting a call to 911. The boy was rushed to Langley Memorial Hospital, but could not be revived.

The teen, whose name has not been released, may be the second recent young man to die after taking ecstasy in that city. 20-year-old Tyler Miller, who lived in neighbouring Abbotsford, died while partying with friends on Nov. 27.

The coroner is conducting toxicology tests to determine if the drug was indeed responsible, as well as to determine whether it was laced with an even more toxic additive that's been blamed for a spate of fatal overdoses.

Paramethoxymetamphetamine, or PMMA, has been found in the systems of three men and two women in B.C. among 18 ecstasy-related deaths since the start of 2011. Five more people recently died after injesting PMMA in Calgary.

The excessively toxic additive takes longer to produce hallucinogenic effects than the usual ingredient in ecstasy, which sometimes leads users to pop more pills or other substances to get desired effects.

"This latest death again emphasizes the point that every ingestion of ecstasy is a risk as there is no way of determining the actual ingredients of a drug concocted for profit in an unregulated environment," Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a release.

"Even though ecstasy is often thought to be a recreational drug rather than one of addiction, there is no known safe dose."

Mounties in Langley are working with the coroner to investigate.

"We'll be pursuing all the possible leads and ... one of the things that we would be looking to is where or from who they may have purchased illicit drugs," said Cpl. Holly Marks.

She couldn't provide further details about the specific investigation, only noting the death is not considered suspicious.

RCMP at B.C. headquarters wouldn't say whether progress has been made into tracking the source of the PMMA, which hasn't turned up in Western Canada until the recent deaths.

Cpl. Annie Linteau did say there are several ongoing investigations into the trafficking and distribution of ecstasy.

Police have also so far decided against posting photos of pills from the batch laced with PMMA.

"Stamps and the colour (of) pills are not consistent. They come in a variety," Linteau said in an email. "The key message here is that all ecstasy is bad."

The Lower Mainland is considered by police to be a manufacturing hub for ecstasy.

Tackling the production and distribution of synthetic drugs is an RCMP priority, Linteau added. Last year police dismantled more than 30 drug labs.

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