Australia has the highest rate of ecstasy use in the world. Frightening isn’t it? So what’s being done about it? Like many other policy issues, the PM declared war on drugs but it is more a phoney war than a real one.

Hey guys, wanna buy some alcopops?

Since being elected the Government has failed to take any significant action on this major health and criminal problem. Instead General Rudd and his loyal lieutenants have sent the troops into the goldmine by introducing a new tax on pre-mixed lolly water rather than sending them to the front line and fighting the real war on illicit drugs.

With my best Kevin Rudd impersonation, I will ask myself a question, ‘is addressing the problem of binge drinking in our young people important?  Absolutely.  But is it the number one health challenge?  I think not’.

The Rudd Government has taken its eyes of the most significant and dangerous health issue facing young Australians, illicit drugs.  Instead it has taken the easy route and pursued a tax grab dressed up as a health policy.

There is little doubt our young people face challenges with illicit drugs like never before.  This is not only a health issue; it has devastating effects on Australians, families and communities.

Drugs are cheaper and more accessible than at any time in our history. Ecstasy tablets can be bought for as little as $15, five years ago the going price was $55. This isn’t based on third-hand rumour, official government reports released last year confirm this. The Courier Mail found nightclub patrons can buy potentially lethal tablets for little more than a couple of beers.

In times past the cost of serious drug consumption was largely prohibitive and underground, but those days are no long gone.  Drugs are now mainstream in nightclubs and pubs, not just at rave parties and festivals.  The same survey into ecstasy use showed that 69% of people used ecstasy at nightclubs.  Next time you see the queues forming outside nightclubs, remember that statistically more than two out of three patrons who are using ecstasy take it in nightclubs.

So not only are young people faced with peer group pressure, they are also faced with economic pressures, making the decision to dabble so much more attractive.

The availability of such dangerous substances at cheap prices not only risks the health of young Australians but causes violence, assault (in many cases sexual), increased mental illness and dangerous behaviour such as driving under the influence.

During the recent Easter road blitz the South Australian police found 1.49% of drivers checked, tested positive to illicit drugs.  The fledgling testing system only identifies cannabis, methylamphetamine (speed, ice or crystal meth) and ecstasy.

There is no safe level of taking these drugs and their effects are frightening.  You do not know what is in them, nor where they are made.  There is no standard for production.  They are often produced in the back sheds of suburbia for criminal syndicates with little care for the outcome to the end user.  There is no post sale service for this product.

The effects on the health of the consumer are substantial in the short term.  While designed to give a ‘buzz’ for a number of hours what they can do to the body is horrific.  An overdose can result in psychosis, vomiting, convulsions, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and in many cases death. 

Long term abuse of these drugs has significant mental health impacts creating a potential ‘lost generation’ of young Australians due to drug use.

Add to that the vicious bashings, sexual assaults and break-ins that occur due to illicit drug use and you start to see the community wide impact of these substances.  Talk to any cop on the beat that has to deal with the outcomes of illicit drug use and they will tell you straight just how much trouble this scourge is causing.  The total long term damage to Australian families is unknown and unmeasurable.

This is not to underplay the dangers of binge drinking.  It is a real problem for young Australians and should be addressed.  But it should be addressed seriously and not under the guise of a tax grab. 

Binge drinking should be addressed but not at the expense of the more challenging issue of illicit drug taking by young Australians.

Addressing this problem takes a serious commitment and resources with a mixture of education, law enforcement activities and health responses. 

We need more police on the beat to target the criminals infiltrating our bars and clubs peddling their human misery.  We need an increased emphasis to find those responsible for producing and distributing these drugs onto the streets.  We need programmes and interventions to help rebuild the lives of those who are caught up by addiction and finally we need better education programmes for our youngsters.

It is not good enough for us to say ‘oh well young people will always experiment’.  We can and should do more to crack down on this great challenge facing young Australians. 

A tax on lolly water doesn’t do that.

Most commented


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    • Nick says:

      06:23am | 04/06/09

      “The same survey into ecstasy use showed that 69% of people used ecstasy at nightclubs.  Next time you see the queues forming outside nightclubs, remember that statistically more than two out of three patrons who are using ecstasy take it in nightclubs.”

      That certainly does not mean 69% of nightclub goers use ecstasy.

      And how bout a link to the study in question?  This is a blog of sorts, not a newspaper column.

      “potentially lethal tablets”

      Again figures, please.  How many Australian ecstasy fatalities have there been in the last 20 years?

      Since you’re statistically *much* more likely to die from rock-climbing than from taking ecstasy, and both those figures are dwarfed by the number of *deaths of teenagers and young adults on our roads, due to alcohol*, Jamie Briggs is doing nothing but ‘underplaying the dangers of binge drinking’.

    • stella says:

      08:54am | 04/06/09

      “Add to that the vicious bashings, sexual assaults and break-ins that occur due to illicit drug use…”

      According the latest DUMA Study, “Half of those detained for disorder and violent offences had consumed alcohol in the 48 hours prior to arrest.”

    • albe says:

      09:08am | 04/06/09

      get over it Jamie… “peddling human misery” ... haven’t u cottoned on to the reason why people use illicit drugs like e’s or weed… they’re FUN!

      just like not all drinkers are alcoholics… not all drug users are junkies. It IS possible to use most drugs responsibly. Locking people up just creates a criminal underclass, destroying families.

      its fools like u that perpetuate this illogical war on drugs…

    • Shelley says:

      10:34am | 04/06/09


      People lining up in support of illegal drugs over legal alcohol.

      Alcohol can be a problem, however it is not illegal to consume alcohol. Nor are the producers of alcohol preforming an illegal act.

      I’m with you.

      Labor have dipped and dodged on tackling a true threat to both health and safety, instead going for noise generation and grabbing tax on a legal substance.

      The illegal, non revenue producing crime of narcotics production and consumption has been quietly hand balled into the too hard basket with Labor opting to gorge itself on the soft ,revenue producing underbelly of alcohol consumption instead.

    • Dave says:

      12:31pm | 04/06/09

      The war on drugs is a miserable failure.
      Prohibition should be dumped.

      Anyone interested in the debate should download & watch the doco

      ” The Union - The Business behind getting high” (2007)

    • THR says:

      12:36pm | 04/06/09


      To use the words of bill Hicks:
      “I have never seen two people on pot get in a fight because it is f*&$ing IMPOSSIBLE. “Hey, buddy!” “Hey, what?” “Ummmmmmm….” End of argument.”

      Melbourne’s current problems with nightclubs are not ecstasy related champ- they are alcohol. Don’t just assume that because it’s legal it’s ok. Cigarettes are legal.

    • Jamie says:

      12:56pm | 04/06/09


      This is not an either or.  Obviously young people getting smashed at clubs and pubs is a major cause of violence.  However if you look at the Courier Mail series from a couple of months ago, the combination of the two is a disaster and the cheaper the access, the more people who are doing both.  I’m not suggesting that we should not focus on the problem of binge drinking in fact to the contrary.

    • zebadiah81 says:

      01:44pm | 04/06/09

      “The same survey into ecstasy use showed that 69% of people used ecstasy at nightclubs.”
      Um, does that mean 69% of people use ecstasy every time they go to a nightclub?
      Or that we should literally expect 69% of people inside any nightclub on any night will have taken ecstasy?
      Or is it that 69% of people who take ecstasy do so in a nightclub?
      Or that 69% of nightclub patrons have taken ecstasy at some time in the past?

      I’m not sure what it is you are trying to say here.  But if 69% of people in any sample group admit taking ecstasy, surely that means that the *majority* of people think that it should *not* be illegal?

      “You do not know what is in them, nor where they are made.  There is no standard for production”
      That is precisely because it is illegal.  During “the prohibition” in America, the same thing was said about alcohol.  By making these drugs illegal, we have removed any chance to implement standards of production, removed any possibility of tax revenue, and enabled criminal syndicates to make lots of money.

      “1.49% of drivers checked, tested positive to illicit drugs”
      Really? And yet 69% of people take them.  Surely this figure belies your entire argument. 

      From what I understand, THC (the chemical in cannabis) stays in the blood for 2 weeks after consumption.  I don’t know about the retention of the other drugs listed, but surely of that 1.49% there would have been a high proportion of people who had, say, smoked a joint at a party last week. 

      Can you break down that figure by the actual drug they tested positive to?

      “vicious bashings, sexual assaults and break-ins that occur due to illicit drug use”
      Um, did you ask the cop to compare it with alcohol related incidents of the same nature?  I think what you are trying to say is, that these things happen when drug users who are having withdrawals need to get money to finance their habit.  In an article talking about ecstasy and how bad it is, to compare it with the withdrawal symptoms of, say, heroin or ice users, is completely fallacious.

      Even having said that, and I am not suggesting that either heroin or ice are ok, the fact that all these drugs are illegal is the main reason users have to resort to crime to finance their habits.

      Hypothetically, if cannabis and ecstasy were not illegal, and we could go to our favourite pub and order “2 beers, 1 joint, and 1 ‘E’ please”, instead of having to wander down dark alleys looking for shady characters, we could avoid the majority of the problems that you describe in this article.

    • Pedro says:

      04:07pm | 04/06/09

      Wow. I’ve read some pretty frenetic pieces about illicit drugs in News publications before, but this takes the cake.

      Seriously - has the author ever spoken to many people who use illicit drugs on a casual basis?

      I can only speak from personal experience. I have a wide circle of friends, the vast majority of whom have dabbled in various illicit drugs since around 2000. Mostly it’s just a ‘special occasion’ thing now.

      Guess what? We’re all highly successful, switched-on, intelligent people who own property, have young families, investments, and great jobs. Did we all deserve to prosecuted and locked up? We’re not the lost generation, we’re the generation that is smart enough to make decisions on our own about what we do with our bodies and not have fear-mongering constantly shoved down our throats. With any luck, our generation will make positive changes to drug law reform, not go backwards like the author professes.

      Seriously Jamie - grow up, stop judging people on their own choices and advocate for positive drug law reform, stop towing your ridiculous party line and think for yourself.

    • Shelley says:

      04:31pm | 04/06/09

      If the government are serious about health and about crime, taxing ciggies & alcohol still more isn’t going to solve the problem.

      It’s to raise revenue.

      If it was about health they’d introduce prohibition.

      Or spend every dollar raised on health care for problems caused by grog and smokes.

      They may even do as California is proposing and legalise pot to remove the black market and make some money.

      Those truly broke, and I mean here those that don’t have the luxury of voicing an opinion through lack of resources, opportunity or lack of education, use the crutch of alcohol and smokes to get through a shit life.

      Tax it out of their reach and they’ll turn to illegal substances.

      example: petrol sniffing.

      Or get caught up in a life of crime and victimisation to support a habit.

      If you can afford the choice of going clubbing and getting drunk good on you.

      Others through circumstances not of their own making don’t have that luxury.

      And that’s where the government has dropped the ball.

      And THR, champ,  Australia doesn’t start and end in Melbourn nightclubs. Try looking further afield at the whole picture.

    • realitybites says:

      05:02pm | 04/06/09

      Hey how come the story about the recent successful decriminalization of “recreational”  drugs in Portugal has not been covered in Australia? Crime down, drug use down, no surprise at all.

    • Tom says:

      02:26pm | 05/06/09

      Many of us turn to drugs because alchohol is getting more and more expensive… ive been seriously considering it myself.

      e.g a beer is worth about half an ecstacy tablet where im from

    • Bill says:

      02:33pm | 08/06/09

      ‘Taking ecstasy is no more dangerous than horse riding,’ according to Professor David Nutt, the chairman of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in the UK. The shear number of alcohol-related deaths vs illicit drug-related deaths should be pushing the tax up on alco-pops.

      amen realitybites!

    • uli says:

      02:51am | 22/06/12

      a wodka mix is decribed as an energy drink


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