Pubdate: Sat, 10 May 2008
Source: Dominion Post, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2008 The Dominion Post
Authors: Anna Chalmers and Lane Nichols


A dramatic increase in people being admitted to hospital with severe
reactions to party pills has experts calling for urgent action.

Four to five patients are being admitted to Wellington Hospital on a
typical Saturday night after taking the new-generation pills,
emergency doctor Paul Quigley says.

Patients were scared, jittery and anxious. "We're getting
semi-hysterical type reactions." Other reported symptoms include
insomnia and vomiting.

Dozens of new pills flooded the market last month, replacing BZP
varieties whose sale was banned from April 1.

"BZP really didn't make much of an impact in Wellington, but certainly
over the past few weekends we've noticed a change," Dr Quigley said.

Neuroblast, which was introduced last year, appeared to be a
particular problem, and he believed much of the patient influx was due
to a rush of users trying the new pills.

BZP and six similar substances used to make the original party pills
were made class C drugs - the same as cannabis - under last month's
law change.

Retailers and drug campaigners warned the Government before the BZP
ban that it would not solve the problem. Health Minister Jim Anderton,
who pushed for reform, has said a "regrettable flaw" in the legal
system allows suppliers to sell pills without having to prove their

Many of the new pills are marketed as "herbal", but medical experts
disagree. Ingredients include guarana, citrus aurantium, poppy seed,
magnesium sterate and dicalcium phosphate.

The Health Ministry confirmed last month it is investigating the pills
and has arranged testing through Environmental Science and Research.

A spokesman said last night the results would be available

Drug Foundation director Ross Bell was not surprised young users were
getting sick and said the situation was dangerous.

"We don't know what's in them so it's impossible for us to get
information out there. These things have no age restrictions; they can
be sold anywhere to anyone."

Medical Research Institute of New Zealand director Richard Beasley,
who cancelled a study into BZP pills after participants had severe
reactions, said the jump in admissions was of concern.

It was a case of deja vu - "another adverse experience with products
being brought in without being tested".

Mr Anderton has said a Law Commission review of the Misuse of Drugs
Act will look at moving the burden of proof to manufacturers.

But Matt Bowden, one of the first BZP-based party pill manufacturers,
said the drugs should not have been banned.

Twenty-six million pills had been consumed over eight years by about
400,000 people with "zero deaths and no significant lasting injuries".

"Consumers do want to use safe alternatives to illegal drugs. [But] if
someone gets a new novel drug that doesn't have a history of human
testing, then it's unwise to put that on the market."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake