Monday, January 09, 2006

Youth turn to uninformed doctors on ecstasy: study

The Australian

Leigh Dayton, Science writerDecember 30, 2005

YOUNG people keen for the facts about using ecstasy mistakenly believe doctors are the best source of reliable information on the illicit drug.A study on where young people go for information about ecstasy and why they chose - or reject - different sources shows doctors are a popular choice.

"If we really want to get serious about ecstasy, we've got to look at new and innovative ways of disseminating quality information," one of the report's authors, Paul Dillon, told The Australian yesterday.

Mr Dillon, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, based at the University of NSW, said traditional sources of information - police, governments and the media - were not getting the facts across.

The study found young people dismissed them as purveyors of an often-sensationalised "just don't do it" message, he said.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Choong-Siew Yong agreed most doctors knew little about illicit drugs such as ecstasy.

"Most do welcome the information, though," said Dr Yong, federal vice-president of the Australian Medical Association.

He praised as "very worth doing" a recommendation that doctors and drug hotline staff be trained to disseminate harm-minimisation information.

"We know there are increasing numbers of individual ways doctors obtain information - some go online, some have consultations and some read journals, but no one size fits all physicians," Dr Yong said.

Mr Dillon said the NDARC had just received federal funding to work with the medical community to find ways to provide it with the latest data on the physical and mental health risks of using ecstasy.

Psychiatrist Dan Lubman, with the University of Melbourne and ORYGEN Youth Health, endorsed the call for better use of peer education and the internet, as well as initiatives for the medical community.
"Our clinical experience mirrors the recommendations of the report," he said.

Dr Lubman said the recommendations fitted with work planned by the newly established National Youth Mental Health Foundation. Early this month, the federal Government pledged $54million over four years to a consortium, including ORYGEN, that would head the foundation.

Part of the foundation's task is to upgrade the knowledge and skills of doctors and others who work with young people aged 12 to 25 at risk of mental health problems.

"Just lecturing ecstasy users or giving didactic information is counter-productive," Dr Lubman said. "You have to engage them, and we need to find the best strategies for getting evidence-based information across."


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