TEXT DRUG FOR INFO THAT COULD SAVE A LIFE
Ambulance drivers are expected to be among the biggest users of a new drug information service using texting on mobile phones.
The "Get the Msg" service, launched in Auckland yesterday, contains information on about 420 variations of the names of mind-bending drugs ranging from alcohol to "P". Ecstasy alone is listed under 55 names, including common mis-spellings.
Anyone who comes across a drug they can't identify can text the name to DRUG ( 3784 ) and get back a short message of up to 160 characters giving the more common name of the drug, its effects, its dangers, and links to the New Zealand Drug Foundation's helpline and website.
In Ireland, the only other country where the system has been tried, some of the biggest users have been ambulance drivers who pick up people who have been using drugs with names they don't recognise.
But Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell said the main target was young people "who can text with their eyes closed".
"In Ireland they thought they would send out 10,000 texts in the first six months. They sent out 40,000 in the first month. That demonstrates the effectiveness of text messaging now.
"A good thing about the database is that if it gets reports and discovers there's a slang term that we don't have in our database or a new drug, we can very quickly find out what the substance is and update it within a day."
The service here and in Ireland was developed by Vodafone and will be available only on its mobile phones for an initial four-month free trial.
"We'll be able to evaluate the service after the four months," Mr Bell said. "Assuming it all runs successfully and meets the needs of the users, we will look to ... make it available to all mobile users."