PARTY DRUGS ON THE RISE
Wairarapa's top authority on drug addiction says the free availability of herbal highs is making it easier for young people to use the drugs.
Mary Freeman, manager of Wairarapa Addiction Services, says she has noticed an increase in the popularity of the party pills among young people.
"We've definitely had a lot of people that we have seen that have reported using these. It's mostly the younger group, the party group," she said.
The active ingredient in the herbal pills is BZP and is available in several different pill forms, as well as in liquid form in a drink called Ammo.
Products containing the drug are sold in dairies, bottle stores and even service stations throughout the country.
BZP is a stimulant and has a varying effect on the nervous system, including increased heart rate and an agitated metal state, depending on the dosage.
Mrs Freeman says she has heard reports that the herbal stimulant has been used by methamphetamine, or P users, to "come down".
"It's cheaper than P, easily available and it's legal," Mrs Freeman said.
She said the herbal highs are not as strong as illegal drugs and it depends on the dosage people take as to whether the drug is dangerous.
"It depends on the amounts. The more you have, the more the effects," she said.
Mrs Freeman said she supported limiting access of the party pills to young people, but education was the most important way to control drug use in society.
"Realistically, regulations don't seem to stop people using drugs. I think education on the harmful effects of using these things rather than trying to enforce regulation is more effective.
"The other side of the coin is the way it has been so easily available around town means it does make it easy for people who would not normally buy illicit drugs to buy them.
"If something is easily available in shops, then of course people are going to experiment with it. That's just a fact of life," she said.
The makers of the drugs have self-imposed guidelines set down for the sale of the herbal pills but Mrs Freeman questions whether all the retailers will be responsible in selling them.
"How responsible are the people who have got the stuff in the shop. If a 12-year-old came in, would they be questioned, or given information, or would they sell it to them?
"I would hate to think 12 and 13-year-olds were going out and buying them.
I do think it is different if you are over the age of 18," she said.
She said she backed a no drug policy in schools and that the learning environment should not be influenced by substance abuse of any kind.
"I think it is more about how schools deal with pupils who are found to be offending," she said.
"Suspending pupils just puts a whole lot more pressure on the parent and gives the kids a whole lot more opportunity to do the things they were suspended for in the first place," Mrs Freeman said.
She likened the way young people consume the new drug to the binge drinking culture that is prevalent among many young people.
"They usually don't take something at the recommended dose. They will double up, or even triple up, and that is when the problems arise."
She said the pattern of drug use in society has always followed trends.
"Things go through the stage of being the 'in thing'. That is the way it has always been all the way through with drug use."
Mrs Freeman says attitudes need to change on the way society deals with drug use.
"Young people can't be expected not to take these things when their parents get drunk every night on a 40 ounce bottle of rum, she said.
"Society can change their attitudes. Like drink-driving for example, and cigarettes.
"The same thing needs to occur with all drug use,' Mrs Freeman said.