LOLLIPOPS REVEAL THE PILL-POPPER
Herald Sun Reporter Mary Bolling Spent A Weekend Investigating Melbourne's Club, Pub And Bar Scene. This Is What She Saw.
IT is 11pm on Friday and a crowd lines up outside a St Kilda Rd nightclub. Inside the club, groups of patrons dance and suck frantically on lollipops.
This helps limit the ecstasy-induced tendency to grind teeth or bite the insides of their cheeks.
A few patrons openly say they had already bought their drugs before arriving.
Five girls who bounce out of a single disabled toilet together show signs they have taken illicit substances.
Over on Chapel St, an older crowd is taking in a band in the front bar of one of many venues that line the strip. The smell of marijuana wafts around the back couches.
My mates move on to the dance floor. The more enthusiastically they danced the more likely they were to be to asked if they were dealing.
They weren't, but that didn't stop them being asked four times in 20 minutes if they had any ecstasy to sell.
Just as no one seems backward about asking strangers for drugs, there's not much inclination to hide taking them.
On Saturday night, a group of six men are sitting around the table of a city bar. They each take a pill.
It's about 11pm -- 24 hours after we started our tour -- and there are about 100 people at the venue. One guy says he's not worried about carrying the drugs contained in a small plastic bag.
But a "better option" was to use the box from a particular brand of mints.
He takes off the lid and the box has a mirrored bottom, which makes cutting easier, he explains.
Depending on the strength of the pill, people may take one in a night, or up to three or four.
A single pill costs $20 to $40 and most people know someone who is dealing, or know someone who knows someone.
In one of the CBD's many lounges that line streets and lanes, there is free entry after midnight.
It is crowded and groups of people are dancing, hugging and screaming over the DJ.
Patrons happily volunteer the fact that they've popped pills, and at the bar, asking what drug you are on is a pick-up line.
The chances of worse side-effects than ground-down teeth were rated as "pretty unlikely", they reasoned. The chances of getting caught were not even a consideration.
Taking ecstasy was an occasional habit for some, but others said they went out and took pills a few times a week.
Some users claim they know how to stay safe. But they are ignoring the risks, and no one can say they know where the pills are made.
Nonetheless, taking ecstasy is as safe as drinking, I was told repeatedly.
Not that anyone stopped drinking. At another venue -- open until 7am on Little Collins St -- the crowd was permanently three deep at the bar after 2am. But no one was wearing out.
DJs on two floors of the venue had people dancing in a thick mass to everything from Kiss to Kylie.
About 4am, an old mate bowled up to me, tripping over a couch in his enthusiasm.
He and a friend were over-supplied with pills for the night and wanted to offload the rest of their supply because they were running out of beer money.
While it might be more difficult to get, ecstasy seems interchangeable with alcohol for many.
Use of the drug has expanded outside the dance music scene where it started. And in spite of continuing warnings, it's a risk that Melbourne's young people still don't think twice about taking.