Yesterday the Australian Institute of Criminology released a report that independently verified what they had already been told by users themselves: when ecstasy is not available, recreational drug users turn to crystal meth.
The verification came from an analysis of sewerage water from a municipality in Queensland. “Estimates were made of the average daily dose and average daily street value per 1,000 people. On the basis of estimated dose and price, the methamphetamine market appeared considerably stronger than either MDMA or cocaine.”
The systems used by the AIC are usually reliant upon self-report data, which generally leads to selection biases. But that self-report data gave the AIC the reasons for the shift from ecstasy to meth – quite simply, decent ecstasy became too difficult or expensive to acquire.
In an AIC press release earlier this year, Manager of the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program, Jason Payne said:
The decline in ecstasy use coincides with a spike in methamphetamine use, and the findings are consistent with data recently released by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and in the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report.”
It is worthwhile noting that these substantial falls in ecstasy use among police detainees have occurred simultaneously with significant increases in methamphetamine use.
The relationship between the production and supply of ecstasy and methamphetamine, but more importantly how users respond to such market changes, remains a key topic for further research.
Yes, I know correlation doesn’t equal causation, but even the AIC hint pretty strongly that it means exactly that. From the report that spawned that press release:
Self-reported data suggested that ecstasy had become harder to obtain, that there were fewer dealers selling the drug and that the quality was perceived to have declined.
So I’ll go out on a limb and say it: if recreational ecstasy users can’t get ecstasy, a good number of them will turn to a readily available and affordable drug that provides a similar high. And the most readily and available of those right now is methamphetamine.
The problem is, the similar high doesn’t come with similar consequences. Meth is highly addictive and long term use has a high association with depression and suicide, psychosis, anxiety and violence, as well as the ever-attractive meth mouth. There seems little evidence that ecstasy is addictive and although there may be some long term consequences of heavy use, such findings are inconclusive.
Any bouncer (other than the type who enjoys the fighting part of his job) will tell you he’d rather have a club full of ecstasy users than one full of meth-heads or drunks. The most annoying thing about ecstasy users if they want to love everyone, touch everything and express all of their feelings while thinking they can dance better than they actually can. They don’t tend to hit people.
I feel comfortable making the unqualified statement that meth is more harmful than ecstasy to both user and society. So is alcohol, but that’s another blog topic.
So, presumably the drying up of the supply of ecstasy has much to do with the highly publicised massive raids done by police. And these, in turn, no doubt occurred because ecstasy was seen as a ‘problem’ drug. Only for law enforcement, it seems ‘problem’ is synonymous with ‘popular’.
Newsflash: ecstasy was so very popular because it was relatively safe, left users with a clear head and was non-addictive. By fixing the ‘problem’ of ecstasy, all law enforcement has done is created an actual problem – no quote marks required.
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