PARTY DRUGS MOVING FROM CLUBS TO THE HOME
Ecstasy, amphetamines and other party drugs are increasingly being taken at home or at private parties, and researchers are warning the change in venue may place users at even greater risk of harm.
The annual Party Drugs Initiative surveyed more than 850 ecstasy users, and found the use of the drug had continued to increase, with 20 per cent of those aged 20 to 29 reporting that they use the drug.
Nightclubs and raves continued to be the most popular location for ecstasy use, however other drugs such as crystal meth, GBH and ketamine were increasingly being taken in private residences.
And while home may feel like a safe and private place to take drugs, the chief investigator for the survey, Louisa Degenhardt, warned that users were placing themselves in potentially life threatening situations.
"That is in contrast to nightclubs and venues, where you do have security guards, bar staff, and managers - or at the bigger parties you have drug rovers and medical volunteers - who can act if you get into trouble," Dr Degenhardt said.
"There is not necessarily going to be someone at home making clear and informed decisions ... if you are with people they are likely to have been taking drugs as well and will have impaired judgement."
The research found regular ecstasy users were most likely to be 24 years old, 62 per cent were male, 83 per cent were heterosexual and half had tertiary qualifications.
Adam Winstock, the clinical director for drug health services at South Western Sydney Area Health Service, said the risks were relative to the pattern of use, the amount and kinds of drugs used and the context in which they were taken.
"There are risks associated with taking drugs at nightclubs and raves, such as taking more drugs over a longer period of time, the danger of overdosing or of finding a new sexual partner and ending up with a sexually transmitted infection or an unwanted pregnancy," he said.
"But it is also risky to take drugs at home, where there is no one there to help you if you do overdose."
Some experts say the NSW Police's sniffer dog program, in which pubs and clubs are regularly visited and dogs are often on the streets, could be one factor driving drug users out of venues and into their homes.
"People are influenced by policing strategies," Dr Winstock said. They often chose to take all of their drugs at once before they entered a nightclub in order to avoid detection - adding another element of danger.
"The use of street-level sniffer dogs may have influenced people's drug taking behaviour," said Dr Degenhardt, who is also a senior lecturer with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW.
"When the sniffer dogs were introduced in 2002 ... people were changing their drug purchasing patterns and changing their drug use patterns."
The national study is compiled from interviews with ecstasy users and "key informants" who are in regular contact with drug users, including health workers, police, youth workers, DJs, party promoters and drug dealers.