Pill poison

“Pill poison”
John Ferguson and Michael Warner
Australia Herald Sun
July 19, 2005

Insight report: Our tests reveal dance drugs contaminated with toxic chemicals TENS of thousands of young Victorians are gambling with their lives on deadly cocktails of chemicals sold as ecstasy. The Herald Sun has uncovered fresh evidence of pills sold in Melbourne containing alarming ingredients such as horse tranquillisers, morphine, speed and nerve-numbing agents.

Victoria Police tests for Insight have highlighted a dramatic shift in the ecstasy market designed to fool users into using other drugs.

Police have found that drug makers are increasingly lacing tablets with a variety of other dangerous substances.

One of the chemicals discovered in ecstasy is used to treat dogs and cats for incontinence.

Four ecstasy tablets branded CK and tested by police for the Herald Sun showed MDMA — the uncut form of ecstasy — was absent as a key ingredient.

The police tests revealed a mix of ingredients, including the veterinary drug ketamine, anti-anxiety medication and the pain-killer morphine.

Of 89 batches of CK tablets seized and tested by police, only 18 had MDMA as the main drug.

“I think it’s a case of Russian roulette. This is a very illicit, unstable market,” Victoria Police drug analysis branch manager Cate Quinn said.

The Herald Sun’s investigation also revealed:

TEENAGERS and twentysomething dealers are reaping up to $100,000 a weekend.

A 21-STRONG police unit has been formed to tackle the explosion in ecstasy dealing.

RECENT busts have failed to dent the demand and supply of ecstasy.

REAL estate agents are helping dob in drug dealers who use rented properties for makeshift laboratories.

ECSTASY is sweeping rural and regional areas, with hotels the focus of police attention.

VICTORIA is poised to set up a new drug alert system to help hospitals and ambulance drivers treat overdose victims.

THE nation’s peak medical body is reconsidering its drug policy and opposition to ecstasy-testing kits.

MOST ecstasy is still made in Europe, but special MDMA labs are operating in Australia.

Insight yesterday revealed nurse Belinda Davey, 21, as Victoria’s first fatal victim of the party drug GHB.

She died in February in a drug dealer’s car outside a Melbourne club after taking a mouthful of GHB, knows as liquid E.

Crime Stoppers recently printed 200,000 brochures warning of the dangers of using ecstasy and amphetamine-based party drugs.

“They stimulate and affect the brain,” the Crime Stoppers brochure says.

“They may cause collapse, cerebral haemorrhage (bleeding in the brain, stroke), seizure and heart failure.

“Ecstasy can cause confusion, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, drug craving and paranoia.”

Victoria Police examined 89 batches of CK brand ecstasy and discovered just 18 had ecstasy as the main drug.

The minimum ecstasy purity was 1.6 per cent, the maximum 53.3 per cent and the median purity 48.2 per cent.

These figures underpin the extraordinary range in purity, with many young users unaware that they are taking anything other than the already dangerous ecstasy.

Ingredients found in CK ecstasy tablets include ephedrine, caffeine, mianserin, ketamine, phenylpropanolamine, pseudoephedrine, procaine, acetylmethylamphetamine, morphine, formylmethylamphetamine and diazepam.

For the Insight investigation, forensic investigators examined four different ecstasy tablets seized by police.

The make-up of the pills varied from batch to batch. This is despite being stamped with CK, after the fashion label Calvin Klein but clearly without the company’s approval.

The pills were of different colours and included subtle differences like bevelled edges, suggesting they were made in different drug labs.

Victoria’s top drug investigator, Det-Supt Tony Biggin, said taking ecstasy was a huge risk.

“The broader issue with ecstasy is, of course . . . what are you taking?

“Pure ecstasy itself, which is MDMA, causes issues and of course people are taking pills that are called ecstasy but what are they?


Ban killer chemicals

July 19, 2005

WHAT happened to a 21-year-old woman who died in a teenage drug dealer’s car could happen to anyone who takes a mouthful of what is a legally available substance.

In the case of nurse Belinda Davey (pictured), she thought she was taking a drink of water after a hard night and following day of raving on ecstasy.

She was dehydrated and in the drug dealer’s car to buy more ecstasy tablets so she could keep partying. She fell unconscious and died.

What she drank accidentally from a bottle on the car seat was the dance drug GHB. Some ravers who appreciate gallows humour call it GBH, the police acronym for grievous bodily harm. But it could just as easily have been one of two substances that can be bought legally and which metabolise in the body to have the same effect as the dance drug that kills.

No matter that such chemicals are used as paint stripper and fish tank cleaner and are freely available. The Herald Sun has decided not to name the substances to prevent more ravers from taking them.

However, we call on health ministers to move immediately to either put the substances on a list of drugs prohibited under controlled substances legislation or sold only to licensed users who must prove a legitimate use.

The substances are used in the multi-billion dollar global chemical industry and although one is banned in other countries the other is freely available.

Australia needs to show a lead in saving the lives of young people who have no understanding of the risks they are taking.

It is not enough to expect some young people to take responsibility for themselves. The community at large must take responsibility for them.

Australia’s Herald Sun publishes “Pill poison,” an article about the proliferation of of ecstasy dealing, consumption, and adulteration in the nation’s most populated region. The link also includes and editorial from the Herald Sun demanding that the community take responsibility for the nation’s drug problems.