Ecstasy dealers are competing "like Pepsi and Coke" to sell their drugs, says the head of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, and users are rating their experiences on the web.
The foundation says it is closely monitoring an international website called Pill Reports, where Kiwis are uploading photos and comments about the Ecstasy tablets they take.
Executive director Ross Bell's comments come after an 18-year-old North Shore girl fell six or seven storeys from a carpark building in central Auckland on Thursday morning after a night drinking and taking Ecstasy. She is recovering in Auckland City Hospital.
The website, which had been around for a number of years, had "replaced the word of mouth", Mr Bell said.
"Every dealer has their own colour, their own name, just like Coke and Pepsi they compete with their various brand names. People will say, 'I had a Red Mitsi last night.' They'll post on various websites what the best pills are."
Mr Bell said that in 1998, 1.5 per cent of Kiwis aged between 15 and 45 had taken Ecstasy in the past year. That had risen to 3.9 per cent by 2006.
He said that over the past year the foundation had tracked the Pill Reports website after a drug called mephedrone started arriving in New Zealand. Several deaths in Britain had been linked to mephedrone.
Pill Reports has a New Zealand leg which talks about Ecstasy varieties labelled "Pink Ladies", "Blue Nikes" and "Green Doves".
"Some were reporting that some of the drugs they were buying probably had mephedrone in them," Mr Bell said. "It's a pretty accurate description of what substances are out there in the community. We certainly just keep an eye on it."
He said it had become harder to obtain pure MDMA - the substance Ecstasy is supposed to contain - and tests on seized drugs had shown it was often laced with P, BZP or caffeine.
"Drug manufacturers don't need to abide by any consumer standards. It's an illegal market. If makers can't get their hands on MDMA they'll stick [in] whatever they can get."
The Devonport parents of the girl who fell from the carpark said she was taking Ecstasy every day. Mr Bell said it "would be pointless" to do so because the effects would lessen.
Ecstasy has been blamed for three deaths in New Zealand: Aucklander Ngaire O'Neill in 1998, Whangarei surfer Jamie Langridge in 2000 and Nelson barman Dai Bowden in 2001.
ALL ABOUT E
* Is a Class B1 drug in New Zealand.
* 2.6 per cent, or 67,300, of Kiwis aged between 16 and 64 have used it in the past year.
* 6 per cent of people aged between 16 and 64 or 165,000 people have tried it.
* Is most popular among people aged 25 to 34.
* The average age at which people first try it is 21.
* Costs about $50 in Auckland, $60 in Wellington and up to $80 elsewhere.
By Alanah May Eriksen
Wednesday Aug 11, 2010