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Research Project on Party Pills shows high use

13 June 2006

First Research Project on Party Pills shows high use

"The first of four research projects commissioned by the Ministry of Health on party pill or BZP use and its effects has been completed," Jim Anderton, chair of the Ministerial Committee on Drugs, announced today.

“The findings of this study show that the number of New Zealanders taking party pills or BZP is much higher than previously thought, with as many as one in five having tried them.

"This is important information about party pill use and will be referred to the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs to consider at its next meeting scheduled in July," Associate Health Minister, Jim Anderton said.

"I am concerned about all drug use and the tragic consequences it can have on young people's lives. We know very little about the long-term effects of party pills in general and BZP in particular," he said. "This is why the Government has commissioned research to find out more."

According to research by Massey University's Centre for Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation (SHORE), one in seven people in the phone survey had used legal party pills over the past year. About half said they had taken them only once or twice in that period.

"The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs will be reviewing the status of BZP when more evidence on the danger or otherwise is known. The EACD will then consider what further measures might be warranted to reduce the potential for harm. This might involve further regulating the manufacture and supply of BZP or, potentially, recommending that it be made illegal." Jim Anderton said.

The latest research shows 20 per cent of those surveyed had tried party pills or BZP and 15 per cent had used them over the past year.

Use was greatest among 18 to 24-year-olds with up to 38 per cent saying they had taken them over the past year. About half the party pill takers said they had suffered from sleep problems. Other side effects included poor appetite, hot and cold flushes, heavy sweating, stomach pain and nausea, headaches, tremors and shakes, loss of energy, strange thoughts and mood swings.

Party pills are legal but they cannot be sold to under 18-year-olds or advertised in major media - TV, radio or print. About 60 per cent of all people surveyed said they supported tougher regulation of party pill sales. Nearly half of these people supported prohibition of party pills.

Reports from the other studies are expected over the next six months. ENDS

Questions and Answers -

What are party pills?
Legal party pills are sold under a wide range of product names including ‘Charge’, ‘Kandi’ and ‘Red Hearts’. The main active ingredients are benzylpiperazine (BZP) and triflourophenylmethylpiperazine (TFMPP). These substances are produced synthetically. BZP has been found to have effects similar to low potency amphetamine while TFMPP is reported to have effects similar to ecstasy. However, there have been no reliable studies to back up these reported effects or to document the potential short and long term harms.

What has been done so far?

The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD) considered the classification of BZP and related substances in March 2004. The EACD concluded that there was insufficient evidence available to classify these substances as either Class A, B or C substances, and recommended that research into BZP prevalence and harm be commissioned. In June 2005, BZP was classified under the newly created Schedule 4 of the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005 as a Restricted Substance. The sale and supply of BZP is restricted to those 18 years old and over and the advertising of party pills in mainstream media is prohibited.

Who did the research?

The research, Legal party pill use in New Zealand was conducted by Massey University's Centre for Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation (SHORE) and comprised a random national household sample of 2010 people aged from 13 to 45 years old in February and March this year. The overall response rate was 69 per cent.

ENDS

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