Manchester Pride: Urgent health warning issued after fake MDMA found

A picture of a powdered drug being sold as MDMA.

An urgent public health alert for Manchester Pride 2023 attendees has been issued after a powder was discovered being wrongly sold as MDMA.

Manchester City Council’s public health officials issued the warning after finding traces of cathinone benzylone (BMDP) in powder being sold as MDMA.

The synthetic designer drug – known as ecstasy in pill form and MD, molly or mandy as a powder – has been heavily linked to seizures, and prolonged insomnia which can lead to psychosis and paranoia.

Multiple samples were reportedly found to contain BMDP across the festival, which saw thousands of attendees travel to the city.

In a statement on Saturday (26 August), Manchester Pride confirmed that vital back-of-house testing conducted by Sutcliffe Research Group’s MANDRAKE drug analysis team found traces of the drug.

It issued a similar warning for Pride-goers to “seek medical attention” if feeling unwell.

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A council spokesperson said in a statement: “This information is concerning and we would advise all attendees of Pride to take care during the weekend.

“If anyone should feel unwell when out celebrating, we’d urge them to seek medical attention urgently.”

Drug testing charity The Loop also confirmed that a similar drug-containing cathonine had been found at the Lost Village festival in Lincolnshire after tests by local police.

“Visually similar to MDMA, but can cause 24+ hours of severe insomnia, which could lead to psychosis,” the charity wrote in a statement. “Seek help if unwell.”

A similar warning was issued last year in 2022 after public health officials found traces of synthetic cathinone, better known as ‘monkey dust’, in drugs being sold as ecstasy.

The Greater Manchester Police City Centre group warned that, following a number of seizures on 26 August 2022, MANDRAKE found the dangerous drug being missold as MDMA around Manchester Pride.

One of the UK’s most prominent Pride events, Manchester Pride takes place between Friday (25 August) and Monday (28 August).

This year’s event marks 10 years since same-sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales.

In a statement to PinkNews, a spokesperson for Manchester Pride said it had been working with MANDRAKE to operate back-of-house substance testing – one of the “harm reduction” steps the Pride organisers have taken to minimise risk.

“We have fully-equipped medical personnel on-site ready to assist,” the spokesperson continued.

“We encourage anyone who believes they may have been affected by this substance to seek medical attention immediately. Our dedicated medical welfare team is stationed on Bloom Street for support.

“The health, safety, and well-being of everyone at the festival remain our top priorities. We urge the public to stay informed and vigilant.

“Manchester Pride does not encourage nor condone the use of illegal substances. Our work with MANDRAKE is part of our strategy to discourage drug use within LGBTQ+ communities.”