ECSTASY binges and toxic cocktails of pills, energy drinks and alcohol are increasingly common among young drug-users, many of whom believe ecstasy is safer than alcohol.
An emerging-trends report by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre reveals drugs such as ecstasy are readily accessible in NSW.Nearly 90 per cent of users claim the pills are easy, or very easy, to obtain.
Pill-popping teens are even enjoying a cheaper high. The average price of an ecstasy tablet has fallen from $30 to $20.
Almost half the users last took ecstasy while drunk in a nightclub and the average age of recreational drug users in NSW last year was 23 - significantly lower than the average of 28 in 2008.
More than a third of the 756 users surveyed for the centre's annual drug monitoring system also admitted to recently bingeing on ecstasy - dangerously taking the drug over a 48-hour period without sleep.
Paul Dillon, from the University of NSW National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, said ecstasy use had quadrupled in the past decade and many users felt they were "invincible".
"Unfortunately, what I see is that many young people believe there is no harm associated with ecstasy, that it's a low-risk drug," he said.
"Kids will often say to me, "It's not as bad for you as alcohol.'
"The fact of the matter is it's a drug, and any drug can cause problems. Even if you've never seen bad side-effects, you have to remember they can happen.
"When you start believing there are no risks, that's when, unfortunately, things can go terribly wrong."
The report showed about 74 per cent of regular ecstasy users mixed the stimulant with energy drinks and alcohol in the past six months.
The centre's findings showed the average age at which NSW teenagers first tried ecstasy was 17, two years younger than the national average.Cocaine use in NSW is three times higher than the national average, with 61 per cent of drug-takers using cocaine in the past six months, up from 53 per cent in 2003.
The average number of days spent using cocaine also increased, from every two weeks to almost weekly in NSW - four times the national average of monthly use.
Risky behaviour was also common, with 33 per cent of surveyed users of injecting drugs in NSW admitting to borrowing or lending a needle, while 67 per cent re-used their own needle.
Melissa Norberg, from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, who is investigating ecstasy use, said research suggested users of the drug during adolescence faced potentially life-long reductions in serotonin.
January 10, 2010
The Daily Telegraph