Sydney: New research suggests ecstasy is making a comeback in Australia, with new calls to rethink pill-testing and quality control.
Following a disruption to the supply of ecstasy in 2008 and again in 2010-11, availability has returned, said Amanda Roxburgh from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at the University of NSW.
Australia’s drugs shame
Drug cartels from around the globe are now targeting Australia because of its massive drug addiction.
Of those who use ecstasy more are choosing to take the illicit drug in crystal form, which is higher in purity.
The Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS), which surveys regular psychostimulant users every year to determine trends in the market, found that nearly 60 per cent of users took ecstasy in a high-purity crystal form.
Participants in the survey – who were predominantly aged 23, male and well educated – first mentioned use of crystal ecstasy in 2012.
“Since then we have seen a steady year-on-year increase in the reported use of crystal ecstasy,” said Ms Roxburgh.
“While pills are still the most common form reportedly used, the increasing popularity of ecstasy crystals appears to be linked to their increased purity.”
Increased purity and the ease of availability may increase the risk of adverse effects, warn the researchers.
“It is reasonable to assume that increased purity, coupled with uncertainty around the amount of the drug being taken, increases risks,” said Ms Roxburgh.
With ecstasy again readily available, there are renewed calls for pill testing to be trialled in Australia.
Dr Monica Barratt from NDARC says users don’t know what is in the ecstasy pills they’re taking and a lack of quality control can result in death.
Concrete pellets and malaria pills have been sold off as ecstasy in the past and many others are laced with rat poison and other deadly chemicals.
At last summer’s music festival season, there were six deaths from drug overdoses, and Dr Barratt says a discussion about pill testing must be had.
She says such a program is designed to deter people from taking ecstasy, but also improves the safety for those who aren’t deterred.
Testing doesn’t just have to happen at music festivals, the technology can be used on the drugs seized by police.
“We could simply test those drugs and provide those results immediately to medical staff,” Dr Barratt said.