Pill poppers risk lives with double-strength drugs

Ecstasy and cocaine-devouring partygoers are risking their lives because dealers are selling super-strong drugs on the streets, it was revealed in new findings from a drug charity yesterday.

Ecstasy pills are reaching London and Wales at as much as double strength. Where the usual purity is 30-40%, this year some pills have been found as much as 90%.

One possible explanation for the high doses is that drug dealers are producing super strength cocaine and ecstasy to lure users away from other substances, such as the stimulant mephedrone, also known as meow, meow.

“It doesn’t seem to make a lot of economic sense to be putting drugs on the street at that level of purity, so exactly what’s going on is difficult to gauge,” said Harry Shapiro, communications director of drugs information charity Drugscope yesterday at a press conference in City University London.

“Pure doesn’t equal safe,” he added. “People assume that just because drugs are cut, that automatically makes them more dangerous.” In other words, an ecstasy pill that has been cut with who-knows-what could, in theory, be much safer than a 100% pure dose.

However, Mr Shapiro stressed that this was no fast rule. He added: “It’s all down to your individual metabolism.”

A sharp increase in women dying from cocaine-related deaths has also left researchers struggling to find the hidden reason.

“People don’t know what they’re buying,” said Mr Shapiro. He stressed the lethal danger that arises when “people are taking an ecstasy pill that is normally 100mg and then suddenly swallowing something that’s 200mg.”

Deaths from illegal drugs rose by a massive 20% last year, from 1,636 in 2012 to 1,957 in 2013. If this trend of stronger street drugs continues, then the UK may see further rises in the coming years.


Graphic Novelist Oscar Zarate pays Passionate Tribute to Hampstead Heath

Once upon a time, Britain was covered almost entirely in forest. The population lived in constant contact with nature, where there were wild spaces in which the imagination could run free and mythology emanated from the sheer age of the land.

Nowadays, for Londoners, most of this link has been lost, except for one huge anomaly.

Photo by Tony Hall
Photo by Tony Hall

“In a city like this, to have a space like this, it’s close to a miracle,” says graphic novelist Oscar Zarate, who is just one of a multitude of us who are in love with Hampstead Heath.

“It offers the possibility of being connected. If you lean against one of those trees, you feel something – it’s 500 years of life there. It’s a pure gut response to this place.”

This is the fervour and romanticism which colours his new graphic novel – The Park. It tells the stories of four characters whose lives intersect as a result of their common connection to what might be considered the central protagonist, the Heath.

Interplay between characters and the vibrant natural world

The seeds of the book grew out of a conversation Zarate overheard on the Heath, in which a man was being very disagreeable. “There was an incredible clash between the physical environment and what this human was saying.”

Zarate creates an interplay between his characters and that vibrant natural world, sometimes using a frame to zoom in for a bug’s eye view of the battles raging beneath the grass blades, or to soar above with the birds.


Previously he has worked with graphic novelist superstar Alan Moore on the book A Small Killing, but now in this – Zarate’s first solo project – his expert hand has both written and drawn this jubilant homage to the Heath.

Much of the pleasure of The Park comes from any true Heath-lover recognising the geographical accuracy of the routes that the characters take, including one’s favourite locations – be it Kite Hill, Bird Bridge or more secluded spots that only an expert eye will recognise by the curve of a footpath or the shape of a fallen tree trunk.

Here is a video in which the graphic novelist lets us have a sneak peek at the book and his working methods:

Originally published by The Ham & High.