Interesting article from the Sydney Morning Herald. It's just a pity that nobody in power ever seems to listen to voices of reason.
Sniffer dog warning as ecstasy use rises
By David Braithwaite
May 24, 2006 - 3:04PM
Police sniffer dogs are more likely to cause, not stop, drug abuse, a Sydney drug summit heard today.
As ecstasy use rises, the focus should shift from police busts to pill testing and other ways of reducing harm, a drug researcher told the International Conference on Drugs and Young People.
Jennifer Johnston, of Melbourne's Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, told the conference that more people now take ecstasy, despite efforts to cut its supply.
But she warned that sniffer dogs - now widely used by police in Sydney venues - could be doing more harm than good.
She said there was anecdotal evidence that some drug users confronted by sniffer dogs were swallowing all their pills to avoid detection.
"We're certainly concerned about reports people have seen sniffer dogs and got rid of their pills, sometimes four or five, by taking them," she said.
Ecstasy was now used by 3.2 per cent of the population, up from 2 per cent in 1993, and 12 per cent of 20 to 29 year olds, according to a 2004 National Household Drug Survey of about 30,000 people.
Ms Johnston said the typical ecstasy user is 24 years old, well-educated and employed or studying.
"Supply reduction doesn't seem to be having an impact - ecstasy is readily available and it is relatively cheap," she said.
"The three approaches - supply, demand and harm reduction - are all important.
"However, supply and demand reduction are quite well-funded in comparison to harm reduction.
"Given the increasing levels of use, it appears supply and demand reduction don't appear to be working at the moment in regards to ecstasy."
She said targeted messages could reduce risky behaviour among ecstasy users.
"More emphasis should be placed on harm reduction - given the increasing levels of use, we're responsible for keeping people safe," she said.
The testing of pills at parties and nightclubs had proved effective in reducing harm and educating ecstasy users overseas, Ms Johnston said.
"[The government} would do well to look at it - there is evidence it reduces use and is a good way of getting other messages across," she said.
Test kits for ecstasy pills were in themselves not illegal in NSW, a police spokesman said.
Professor Howard Parker from Manchester University told the conference that while drug use in Britain had levelled off, youth drinking was on the rise.
"There's a message there that if [Australia] is not careful, when people get bored with illegal drugs, they will get back to their favouriate drug: alcohol," he said.