PARTY PILLS Q&A
What are party pills?
Party pills, or "herbals" as they are sometimes called, are designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as methamphetamine ( Speed and P ) or MDMA ( ecstasy ) but without the addictive qualities and known negative effects of these illegal drugs.
BZP, or Benzylpiperazine, is a key ingredient in social tonics such as party pills. Party pills also can contain the ingredient TFMPP ( triflouro-methyl-phenylpiperazine )
BZP and TFMPP are both central nervous system stimulants.
BZP was originally introduced as a worming agent for use in agriculture, and its recreational use was seen in the USA in the early 1990s.
BZP has a stimulant effect which aims to reduce fatigue and give users energy and feelings of euphoria. BZP is currently illegal in the USA, Denmark and Australia.
What's the current law?
In Australia there have been customs seizures of BZP ordered over the internet and shipped in from New Zealand.
However, party pills containing BZP are legal in New Zealand, though purchase and use is restricted to those over 18.
What's the problem?
Recently there has been a lot of concern over the health effects of party pills and their ingredients.
Recommendations made on December 4 2006 by the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs advised that BZP be classified under class C1 of the misuse of drugs act. This would make BZP illegal to buy and possess.
Since the introduction of legal party pills in New Zealand around the year 2000, an estimated 8 million tablets have been sold. ( Source: nzdf.org ).
Currently, not much is known about the long-term effects of BZP. However, some short term effects include: Loss of appetite, dehydration, nausea, fatigue and a rapid heart rate.
In May, a Rotorua woman took a party pill and apparently overdosed on water which put her into a coma.
Greymouth DJ Ben Rodden also ended up in a coma and on life support in hospital after taking party pills ( though he had possibly taken other illegal drugs and alcohol ). He has since made a full recovery.
Party pills were also blamed for the death of 29-year-old Aaron Werder at Foxton Beach in March 2004. The Levin coroner said a lethal cocktail of energy-boosting herbal tablets and alcohol caused Mr Werder's heart failure.
What's the argument in favour of them?
Many people argue that if used only by themselves without taking other drugs or alcohol then party pills are safe, and a good alternative to illegal drugs.
However, these views are opposed by those who think the pills should be banned as they are "mind altering" - as Otago MP Jacqui Deans told the Rotorua Daily Post. She also said she thinks legislation is lagging behind.
Matt Bowden, founder of Stargate and STANZ has said that "Legal party pills are an established part of the New Zealand social scene and you can't pretend that you can just ban them without generating a reaction.