Monday, May 29, 2006

Aussies top the world in using ecstasy

The Advertiser

Australians use more ecstasy than any other country in the world, a federal parliamentary inquiry has been told.

The statement came just days after South Australian Democrats party leader Sandra Kanck said ecstasy "is not a dangerous drug", despite being linked to 110 deaths in Australia in the past three years.

Ms Kanck made the claim to Parliament last week.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre figures tabled to the inquiry showed in the past year, 500,000 Australians used amphetamines - including ecstasy - with 73,000 of them now dependent on the drug.

Up to 66 per cent of users also took the more potent crystalline form, called ice.

Senior NSW police told the inquiry "a culture of acceptance" was to blame, during public submissions in Sydney on Tuesday.

The inquiry heard a United Nations study put Australians at the top of the international list for the consumption of MDMA, also known as ecstasy, per head of population and second for amphetamine, or speed, use.

"We have developed a culture of acceptance of these types of harmful substances," NSW drug squad Det-Insp Paul Willingham told the inquiry into synthetic drugs.

The claims come just a day after experts denounced the use of the term "party drugs" to describe ecstasy and other drugs, saying it made them sound acceptable.

"We as a law enforcement agency have to educate people to let them know it is illicit," he said. "We're pitching to a market that is taking a more potent amphetamine." He said students as young as those in Year 6 needed to be educated about drugs.

A UN report released in 2003 estimated 2.9 per cent of Australians aged over 15 were using ecstasy. That rate was the world's highest with Ireland the next highest (2.4 per cent), followed by Britain (2.2), Spain (1.8), Belgium (1.7 ) and the U.S. (1.5).

Australia also had the second highest rate for amphetamine use at 3.4 per cent, behind Thailand's 5.6 per cent.

By Angela Kamper


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