Drug information just a txt message away
By AIMEE NICHOLLS, AUT journalism student
Wednesday, 20 September 2006
Tamaki and Districts Times
MORE than 10,000 text messages were sent on the first night of the new ‘Get the Msg’ anti-drug campaign.
“We didn’t anticipate this response,” says the New Zealand Drug Foundation’s executive director, Ross Bell.
“We thought we would be sending 10,000 texts a month. It’s overwhelming.”
The service, launched on September 1, offers free, text-based drug information to all 021 mobile users.
People can text the name of a recreational drug, whether scientific, street or slang, to DRUG (3784) and receive a message back informing what it is, its effects and what the come down is like for users.
“Texting was the obvious way to do it,” says Mr Bell. “It’s such a large part of New Zealand society.”
The service is run by the NZ Drug Foundation, Run the Red mobile enablers and supported by the Vodafone Graduates Project.
Information on 17 substances is recorded in the system database, including alcohol and tobacco and more than 400 terms are recognised.
Mr Bell says the database is flexible and can be updated and changed constantly.
He hopes the service will allow people to make their own informed decisions to say no to drugs, or at least provide information so they know what to expect and use safely.
St John Ambulance events operation manager Adam Johnston says the service will be positive because people still use recreational drugs, no matter what.
“We welcome something like this. It’s useful to the public and to our staff,” says Mr Johnston.
The service means ambulance staff will no longer have to carry outdated encyclopaedias with them, he says.
“And ambulances are at the bottom of the cliff. An initiative like this is a rung in the ladder at the top. Hopefully it will help people use in a safe manner and prevent overdoses.
“But I guess we will see when the next dance party comes along.”
New Zealand is the second country to trial such a service. A similar Vodafone supported service was launched in Ireland five months ago. Get the Msg is undergoing a four-month trial in New Zealand.
If all goes well Mr Bell hopes it will be expanded to other mobile networks.
“It’s such a simple thing to do and hopefully it will help a lot of people,” he says.