A ground-breaking report into the use of the stimulant MDMA has revealed it claimed 82 Australians over five years from 2000 – and the number fatalities is increasing.
The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre’s study into MDMA-related deaths is the most comprehensive examination to date, and has prompted calls for more research. Last year, Perth teenager Gemma Thoms collapsed at the Big Day Out and died in hospital. She swallowed three ecstasy pills at the festival gates to avoid being caught by police.
Her mum, Peta, is planning to hand out leaflets at today’s Big Day Out warning revellers about the dangers. Concert organisers had promised to design and print flyers for all the 40,000 people expected to attend the festival.
Additional figures obtained by The Sunday Times this week show 23 people died as a result of taking ecstasy in Australia from 2006 to 2008. There could be more, with a number of cases still under investigation. Of those, 10 deaths were reported in 2006, seven in 2007 and six in 2008, with 65 per cent of victims aged 20-29 and more than 70 per cent male.
More than 80 per cent of the deaths were unintentional and 15 of the 23 victims took other drugs with the MDMA, including cannabis or alcohol. In the earlier cases examined by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, 91 per cent of the deaths were directly caused by drug toxicity and MDMA was the sole drug involved in a quarter of cases.
It also contributed to a number of drownings, cardiovascular problems and car crashes. Last week, The Sunday Times revealed that ecstasy had never been cheaper in Perth, with the street price dropping for the first time last year.
A survey by the National Drug Research Institute also found that young users were taking the party drug more often and in bigger quantities. The number who binged on the drug rose from 22 per cent in 2008, to 40 per cent in 2009.
Funded by the Federal Department of Health and Ageing, a separate National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre report found the median age of ecstasy fatalities was 26, with the youngest victim 17 and the oldest 58.
“There are a lot of accidental deaths where MDMA is thought to have played a role . . . and this seems to be a more prominent and prevalent concern,” the centre’s assistant director Louisa Degenhardt said. “A lot of bad things can happen when combining drugs because accidents happen when people are intoxicated with any drug.”
Royal Perth Hospital emergency 2medicine specialist Daniel Fatovich warned that cheaper prices meant more West Australians could afford more pills, increasing the risk of overdoses.
Source www.perthnow.com.au January 30, 2010