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Media Release

Campaign For Nope To Dope Vote Already Making Impact VOTENO.NZ

Media Release 7 May 2019
Family First NZ says that the debate around legalising marijuana is already underway and New Zealanders are quickly realising that while there is an appetite for safe and effective forms of cannabis medicine, there is a decreasing appetite for a soft approach to recreational use.

In the most recent poll, less than 20% (one in five) New Zealanders support legalisation of marijuana, but there is strong support for lifting restrictions for medical use (65%). The polling also found that 85% think that cannabis use can damage the brains of young people under the age of 25, 81% think that drivers using cannabis are more likely to cause accidents, 63% think that cannabis users aged under 25 are less likely to get a job (only 20% think it makes no difference) and half of NZers think that cannabis usage will increase if restrictions are reduced, 35% think usage would remain the same and 6% decrease.

“It is clear that Kiwis strongly support a compassionate response to those in real need with a cautious and researched approach around cannabis medicine, but when they thoughtfully consider the real implications of legalising recreational use, they completely reject the proposal – and rightly so,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

Evidence shows that marijuana – which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decades – is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents. In US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth marijuana use, and costs that far outweigh tax revenues from marijuana. These states have seen a black market that continues to thrive, sustained marijuana arrest rates, and tobacco company investment in marijuana.

Portugal has seen a rise in the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco consumption and of every illicit psychoactive substance (affected by the weight of cannabis use in those aged 15-74) in the last five years.”

A Canadian federal study just released found a 27% increase in marijuana use among people aged 15 to 24 since legalisation last year. Additionally, approximately 646,000 Canadians have reported trying marijuana for the first time in the last three months, an amount almost double the 327,000 that admitted to trying the drug for the same time period last year. Other concerning trends included 15% of marijuana users got behind the wheel of a car within two hours of using the drug, and daily users were more than twice as likely to believe that it was safe for them to operate a vehicle within three hours of ingesting the drug.

This report comes on the heels of another study finding that the black market in Canada is absolutely thriving, with over 79% of marijuana sales in the last quarter of 2018 occurring outside the legal market – a similar trend to California and Colorado.

“When people think about ‘cannabis’, they probably immediately think about the same overused photos by the media of a marijuana plant and a joint being smoked. But legalising marijuana will be far more than that. People will be popping it between classes, sucking on it while driving, drinking it before work, chewing on it while they talk to others, and eating it as a dessert. THC concentrate is mixed into almost any type of food or drink. The potency of edibles (several times that of an average joint) and their attractiveness to kids will lead to serious problems. THC-infused products will include: coffee, ice-cream, baked goods, lolly-pops, fizzy drinks, water bottles, tea, hot cocoa, breath mints & spray, intimate oils, pills, lollies, chewing gum, marinara sauce, baklava, and many more. These new products can be delivered rectally, nasally, vaginally or squirted into the eye to reach the bloodstream faster and deliver a quicker high.”

“Marijuana is both a law and a public health issue. A smart-arrest policy can both provide a societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping marijuana illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“But at a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, why would we legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm?”
ENDS

Canada Already Showing Troubling Signs From Legalising Dope

Media Release 4 May 2019
A Canadian government study is showing disturbing trends already as a result of legalising marijuana, including increases in youth and overall use, and concerning trends in marijuana-impaired driving and workplace use.

The Canadian federal study released yesterday found a 27% increase in marijuana use among people aged 15 to 24 over the last year. Additionally, approximately 646,000 Canadians have reported trying marijuana for the first time in the last three months, an amount almost double the 327,000 that admitted to trying the drug for the same time period last year.

“These are disturbing trends, especially when considering the effects on mental health, addiction and public safety,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

Other concerning trends include:

  • 15% of marijuana users got behind the wheel of a car within two hours of using the drug.
  • daily users were more than twice as likely to believe that it was safe for them to operate a vehicle within three hours of ingesting the drug.
  • 20% of Canadians who reported driving under the influence of marijuana admitted to also consuming alcohol at the same time.
  • about 13%, or half a million, of Canadian workers who are active marijuana users admitted to using the drug either prior to or during work.

This report comes on the heels of another study finding that the black market in Canada is absolutely thriving, with over 79% of marijuana sales in the last quarter of 2018 occurring outside the legal market.

“Canada is quickly finding out that so-called regulation of marijuana does nothing to mitigate the harms of the drug. Legalisation simply exacerbates them. Diane Kelsall, editor in chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, called the new lawa national, uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians.“.”

“Canada’s new law on legal marijuana demonstrates that cannabis legalisation is high in promise and expectations, but the reality is far lower. Evidence shows that marijuana – which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decades – is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents. In US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth marijuana use, and costs that far outweigh tax revenues from marijuana. These states have seen a black market that continues to thrive, sustained marijuana arrest rates, and tobacco company investment in marijuana. Portugal has seen a rise in the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco consumption and of every illicit psychoactive substance (affected by the weight of cannabis use in those aged 15-74) in the last five years.”

“Big Marijuana has high hopes for New Zealand, but liberalising marijuana laws is the wrong path to go down if we care about public health, public safety, and about our young people.”
ENDS

 

ASA Rejects Complaint Against Second Cannabis Billboard

Media Release 30 April 2019
Family First NZ is welcoming yet another decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) not to uphold a complaint against our SayNopetoDope campaign billboards. The latest billboard says ‘you can’t legalise marijuana and promote mental health’, and is currently displayed at Tip Top corner on the Southern Motorway in Auckland. A previous decision rejected complaints made against our ‘Marijuana has a kids menu’ billboard.

The Complaints Board reiterated their statements from the earlier decision which said that the advertisement “did not contain anything indecent, exploitative or degrading, did not cause fear or distress and was socially responsible” and “it was not likely to mislead consumers.”

“At a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, we should go no further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious to most people that legalisation will increase its use, and harm,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

The latest study on the effects of marijuana, published in the February edition of JAMA Psychiatry, summarised 11 studies comprising 23,317 individuals. The research said, “the high prevalence of adolescents consuming cannabis generates a large number of young people who could develop depression and suicidality attributable to cannabis. This is an important public health problem and concern.”

This is consistent with the Christchurch Health and Development Study research which has shown that the use of cannabis was associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including: educational delay; welfare dependence; increased risks of psychotic symptoms; major depression; increased risks of motor vehicle accidents; increased risks of tobacco use; increased risks of other illicit drug use; and respiratory impairment. These effects were most evident for young (under 18-year-old) users and could not be explained by social demographic and contextual factors associated with cannabis use. Regular or heavy cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs, abusing or becoming dependent upon other illicit drugs, and using a wider variety of other illicit drugs.

Research led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (including New Zealand researchers) analysed results of three large, long-running studies from Australia and New Zealand involving nearly 3,800 people. Teenagers who start smoking cannabis daily before the age of 17 are seven times more likely to commit suicide, the study found.

Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased since the legalisation of marijuana. This disturbing trend is, unfortunately, not surprising, as daily marijuana use among youth who begin before the age of 17 significantly increases the risk of suicide attempts.

“Drug use is a major health issue, and that’s why the role of the law is so important. This is a defence of our brains and mental well-being. The public of New Zealand are not getting this information. Our billboards are designed to raise these inconvenient truths – and to provoke debate and discussion.”
ENDS

Shock Cannabis Poll: Yes To Medicinal, No To Legalising

Media Release 23 April 2019
In a shock poll result, less than 20% (one in five) New Zealanders support legalisation of marijuana, but there is strong support for lifting restrictions for medical use (65%), according to an independent poll of 1,000 people by Curia Market Research. 7% support the law as it stands. There is also significant concerns about the mental health and societal costs of cannabis.

“This poll removes the smokescreen and confusion that drug advocates have created with the mixing of terms ‘medicinal’, ‘decriminalise’ and ‘legalise’. It is clear that Kiwis strongly support a compassionate response to those in real need with a cautious and researched approach around cannabis medicine, but when they thoughtfully consider the real implications of legalising recreational use, they completely reject the proposal – and rightly so,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Weakest support for legalising marijuana came from National voters (7%), NZ First voters (19%) and Labour voters (28%). Significantly, only 53% of Green voters supported legalisation.

The independent polling, commissioned by Family First NZ, also found:

  • 85% think that cannabis use can damage the brains of young people under the age of 25.
  • 81% think that drivers using cannabis are more likely to cause accidents.
  • 63% think that cannabis users aged under 25 are less likely to get a job (only 20% think it makes no difference)
  • 49% think that cannabis usage will increase if restrictions are reduced, 35% think usage would remain the same and 6% decrease.
  • 22% think that tobacco companies are pushing for restrictions on cannabis to be lifted, 42% are unsure, and 36% disagree.

“Evidence shows that marijuana – which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decades – is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents. In US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth marijuana use, and costs that far outweigh tax revenues from marijuana. These states have seen a black market that continues to thrive, sustained marijuana arrest rates, and tobacco company investment in marijuana. Portugal has seen a rise in the prevalence of every illicit psychoactive substance (affected by the weight of cannabis use in those aged 15-74) in the last five years.”

“A sensible drug policy should recognise three pillars – similar to the successful approach towards SmokeFree NZ:

  • supply reduction – target the dealers and suppliers
  • demand reduction – promote a drug-free culture
  • harm reduction – ensure addiction services & support are available for those who genuinely want to quit. The primary purpose is not to keep users using, but reduce and help them exit drug use.

A smart arrest policy can both provide a societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping marijuana illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“But at a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, we should go no further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm?”

Family First supports the rapid expansion of further quality research into the components of the marijuana plant for delivery via non-smoked forms, and the establishment of a programme that allows seriously ill and terminal patients (including children) to obtain other non-smoked components of marijuana approved and listed by the Ministry of Health via their doctor – with appropriate funding and pricing for patients. Neurologists, palliative care and pain specialists should have a key role in this process.

“Ultimately, the medical profession should be dictating the direction of this debate, not politicians, an anecdotal-wielding lobby, and marijuana advocates with a hidden agenda.”

The nationwide poll was carried out at the beginning of this month and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%. READ THE FULL RESULTS

ASA says anti-cannabis billboard ‘socially responsible’

Media Release 13 March 2019
Family First NZ is welcoming a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) not to uphold any of the complaints made against its ‘marijuana has a kids menu’ billboard.

There were seven complaints about the advertisement, with complainants arguing that the ad was misleading, made unsubstantiated claims and played on fear. But the Complaints Board has rejected those complaints, saying “the advertisement draws the public’s attention to some of the different types of cannabis products that might be available for sale in New Zealand, if recreational cannabis is made legal.” They said the advertisement “did not contain anything indecent, exploitative or degrading, did not cause fear or distress and was socially responsible.”

A separate complaint about the inappropriate use of the word ‘marijuana’ was also thrown out.

“We believe it is time to end the practice of illustrating all marijuana-related news stories and educational materials with the same overused photos of a marijuana plant and a joint being smoked. The public deserves to be informed about the wide variety of products and THC potencies sold in legal marijuana markets around the world. What is most concerning is that the marijuana industry is targeting young people with child-attractive child-friendly products,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“When people think about ‘cannabis’, they probably immediately think about a joint. But legalising marijuana will be far more than that. People will be popping it between classes, sucking on it while driving, drinking it before work, chewing on it while they talk to others, and eating it as a dessert. THC concentrate is mixed into almost any type of food or drink. The potency of edibles (several times that of an average joint) and their attractiveness to kids have led to serious problems in legalised states like Colorado. THC-infused products include: coffee, ice-cream, baked goods, lolly-pops, fizzy drinks, water bottles, tea, hot cocoa, breath mints & spray, intimate oils, pills, lollies, chewing gum, marinara sauce, baklava, and many more. These new products can be delivered rectally, nasally, vaginally or squirted into the eye to reach the bloodstream faster and deliver a quicker high.”

“The public of New Zealand are not getting this information. Our billboard is designed to raise this inconvenient truth – and to provoke debate and discussion,” says Mr McCoskrie

Family First has other billboards in its campaign including “The new face of Big Tobacco”, “The Referendum is about legalising recreational cannabis. Medicinal is already legal” and “You can’t legalise cannabis and promote mental health”.
ENDS

Students Get Green Light For Dangerous Drug Use

Media Release 19 February 2019
Family First NZ says that allowing drug use and drug testing at university orientation weeks is flawed and dangerous, and is being used by drug-friendly groups and a government apparently soft-on-drugs as a wedge for the normalisation of drug use.

“The Otago Student’s University Association is confused when they say that they ‘in no way condones drug use of any kind’ and that this is a ‘proactive move against drug use’. To most thinking people, that is laughable. Promoting and requiring drug-free events (similar to alcohol and smoke-free events) is not a ‘hardline’ approach – it’s a health and safety approach based on best practice. Drug overdoses are a huge concern, and testing won’t protect users because there is no such thing as a safe drug,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Pill testing will be seen by many students as a clear endorsement of drug use. It sends a message that illicit drugs are acceptable and can be ‘safe’, and will worsen harmful drug use, so that more lives will be put at risk with the belief that the drug they are taking is somehow ‘safe’.”

“Pill testing also does not – and cannot – guarantee that the drug being taken will not cause any physical or mental harm or death to the individual consumer. It also cannot account for the individual’s physiological response to each drug.”

“It is being promoted by drug friendly groups – which says it all.”

Drug-Free Australia has provided research showing that according to the medical literature the accelerating number of Australian deaths from ecstasy are mostly not from overdosing, nor, according to coroners’ reports, are they due to impurities in party pills – but rather from individual reactions to drugs.

The President of Drug Free Australia recently sent an Open Letter to NZ politicians, saying
“We are urging you, as a parliamentarian who makes evidence-based decisions for the well-being of your nation’s individuals, to totally reject any further discussion on pill testing in New Zealand until such time as its advocates have demonstrated from available NZ Coroners’ reports that

  1. it is NOT the substance MDMA, or MDMA in a polydrug use context, which is chiefly responsible for the many NZ deaths; or
  2. that most of the deaths are alternately from MDMA consumed in amounts beyond what is considered normal for recreational use.”

“If pill testing is pursued with government approval, the inevitable result will be more people willing to use the substance on the false assumption that they are now safe.”

“This is simply another ‘facilitated’ ill-informed decision to consume illicit drugs. Students should enjoy orientation week and stop playing Russian Roulette with drugs and with their lives.”

“Advice from Victoria Police tells us it can give people a false and potentially fatal sense of security about illicit drugs.”
Victorian government spokesman, Jan 2019.

Public statements made by politicians that the trial would help ‘keep people safe’ were potentially misleading. MDMA is not a safe drug… The whole concept is based on the false assumption that if you do know what you’re taking, it is safe – something that is absolutely untrue.”
Toxicologist Andrew Leibie, from Safework Laboratories, Oct 2017
ENDS

NZ Mental Health Will Worsen If Dope Legalised

Media Release 14 February 2019 
Family First NZ says that the latest study on the effects of marijuana prove that New Zealand would be foolish to legalise marijuana in any way, and that the illegality of the drug and other drugs is vital as we fight the devastation its use causes on both the users, their families, and society in general.

The study, published in the latest edition of JAMA Psychiatry summarised 11 studies comprising 23,317 individuals. The research said, “the high prevalence of adolescents consuming cannabis generates a large number of young people who could develop depression and suicidality attributable to cannabis. This is an important public health problem and concern.”

This is consistent with the Christchurch Health and Development Study research which has shown that the use of cannabis was associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including: educational delay; welfare dependence; increased risks of psychotic symptoms; major depression; increased risks of motor vehicle accidents; increased risks of tobacco use; increased risks of other illicit drug use; and respiratory impairment. These effects were most evident for young (under 18-year-old) users and could not be explained by social demographic and contextual factors associated with cannabis use. Regular or heavy cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs, abusing or becoming dependent upon other illicit drugs, and using a wider variety of other illicit drugs.

Research led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (including New Zealand researchers) analysed results of three large, long-running studies from Australia and New Zealand involving nearly 3,800 people. Teenagers who start smoking cannabis daily before the age of 17 are seven times more likely to commit suicide, the study found.

Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased since the legalisation of marijuana. This disturbing trend is, unfortunately, not surprising, as daily marijuana use among youth who begin before the age of 17 significantly increases the risk of suicide attempts.

“A sensible drug policy should recognise three pillars – similar to the successful approach towards SmokeFree NZ

  • supply reduction – target the dealers and suppliers
  • demand reduction – promote a drug-free culture
  • harm reduction – ensure addiction services & support are available for those who genuinely want to quit. The primary purpose is not to keep users using, but reduce and help them exit drug use.

A smart arrest policy can both provide a societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping marijuana illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“But at a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, we should go no further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious to most people that legalisation will increase its use, and harm.”

“Drug use is a major health issue, and that’s why the role of the law is so important. This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains and mental well-being. People should always come before profits.””

If the government is in to a ‘well-being’ budget, legalising marijuana should be nowhere on the agenda.
ENDS

Billboard Campaign Encourages Nope To Dope

Media Release 10 February 2019
A billboard campaign is warning families and encouraging them to think deeply about the possible legalisation of marijuana, and to vote against the proposal in the 2020 referendum. The first billboard has been put up in Christchurch, with further billboards to be used around the country.

Family First NZ has also released a 24-page Briefing for Families, and there are also 1-page Briefing Sheets on specific issues.

Topics covered include:

  • what are the known health harms of marijuana?
  • why is the referendum much more than just being able to ‘smoke a joint’?
  • the problems with statements like “the war on drugs has failed” and “it’s a health issue, not a legal issue”
  • what effect will legalisation have in the workplace, on road safety, with pregnant mums and young people, on family violence & child abuse, and will it really get rid of the ‘black market’ and gang involvement?
  • is growing marijuana ‘green’?
  • what’s the next step in this drug agenda?

“Evidence shows that marijuana – which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decades – is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents. In US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth marijuana use, and costs that far outweigh tax revenues from marijuana. These states have seen a black market that continues to thrive, sustained marijuana arrest rates, and tobacco company investment in marijuana. Portugal has seen a rise in the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco consumption and of every illicit psychoactive substance (affected by the weight of cannabis use in those aged 15-74) in the last five years,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Families simply don’t want marijuana plants being grown next door by dope dealers in view of the children, tinnie houses on street corners and pot shops in local shopping areas, an increase in drugged driving, or marijuana being disguised as lollies and edibles as has happened overseas. Colorado, for example, has more marijuana businesses than McDonalds and Starbucks combined.”

“Legalising marijuana and the rise of Big Marijuana is the wrong path if we care about public health, public safety, and about our young people. There are too many health risks including the effect of marijuana on cognitive ability, cardiac function and psychosis.”

“It remains highly ironic that at the same time as we tear the labelling off cigarette packets, price them out of existence, and ban them from being smoked within breathing space of any living creature, supporters of marijuana are peddling the same myths that we believed for far too long about tobacco – that marijuana is harmless. But of course, a new business market is all very exciting – especially one based on addiction. Could our current mental health services cope? They can’t even cope now.”

www.SayNopeToDope.org.nz will inform families about the attempts to legalise marijuana, and to help them speak up in the public debate.
ENDS

 

JUST RELEASED: Briefing for Families

Are you ready for the debate on legalising marijuana? We are – and we’re here to help you.

DOWNLOAD our new 24-page Briefing for Families.

You can also click HERE for 1-page Briefing Sheets on specific issues.

Topics covered include:

  • what are the known health harms of marijuana?
  • why is the referendum much more than just being able to ‘smoke a joint’?
  • the problems with statements like “the war on drugs has failed” and “it’s a health issue, not a legal issue
  • what effect will legalisation have in the workplace, on road safety, with pregnant mums and young people, on family violence & child abuse, and will it really get rid of the ‘black market’ and gang involvement?
  • is growing marijuana ‘green’?
  • what’s the next step in this whole agenda?

Get past the ‘smokescreen’. These education resources will help you campaign with us against any attempts to legalise marijuana (and ultimately other drugs, according to pro-marijuana groups) in New Zealand.

Open Letter To New Zealand Parliamentarians: Re Pill Testing Within Australia & NZ

DRUG FREE AUSTRALIA 30 January 2019
Drug Free Australia has been very concerned about the national pill testing push within Australia and New Zealand which has chiefly been led here by members of an organisation, Harm Reduction Australia.

Our concerns have pivoted on the fact that MDMA, which is a most sought-after substance at music festivals, has been the substance responsible for almost all deaths within Australia, rather than impurities in party pills or other illicit drugs in the pill which are unknown to the user.  To that end I am communicating with you as a New Zealand Parliamentarian.

We are urging you, as a parliamentarian who makes evidence-based decisions for the well-being of your nation’s individuals, to totally reject any further discussion on pill testing in New Zealand until such time as its advocates have demonstrated from available NZ Coroners’ reports that 

  1. it is NOT the substance MDMA, or MDMA in a polydrug use context, which is chiefly responsible for the many NZ deaths
    OR 
  1. that most of the deaths are alternately from MDMA consumed in amounts beyond what is considered normal for recreational use

In Australia we have previously made our view known to Australian politicians, a view which has been backed by strong evidence from the medical literature, and this has now led to many parliamentarians here no longer considering pill testing as an option.  In our communications we had asserted that MDMA is the sole drug responsible for many of the deaths, but has also contributed via polydrug use to many others.

We have cited the only Australian study on ecstasy-related deaths.  This studied 82 deaths over a five-year period (2001-2005)[i] where MDMA was the sole drug responsible for 23% of the deaths, with another 59% due to MDMA taken in combination with other licit and illicit drugs, totaling 82% of the 82 deaths.  Coroners’ reports in more recent years, as reported in the media, concur.  Of the five festival deaths in NSW this summer, ecstasy has been implicated as the cause in all five, according to Professor Andrew Dawson, as reported recently by the Daily Telegraph.

We have also alerted our politicians to the fact that most MDMA deaths are not overdoses.  As DanceSafe[ii], an American harm reduction group has persuasively outlined:

Overdosing means taking a higher than appropriate dose of a medicine or a drug. In other words, it simply means taking too much or taking a “dose” that is “over” the proper therapeutic or recreational amount. The association of the word “overdose” with “drug-related death” is primarily reflective of heroin and opiate-related deaths, where the majority of fatalities may, in fact, result of overdosing. However, MDMA-related deaths are rarely the result of an overdose, and calling them overdoses is dangerous and negligent. It sends the message that “you will be okay as long as you don’t take too much,” which is simply not true. In the vast majority of cases of MDMA-related deaths, where no other drugs were found in the person’s bloodstream, the deceased had taken a dose within the normal range for appropriate therapeutic or recreational use.[iii]

Even the USA’s Drug Policy Alliance, with whom all Australian and New Zealand pill testing advocates are ideologically aligned, asserts the same[iv], stating that most deaths are not overdoses.  Also, on this same issue we point to evidence in the medical literature, such as the British Journal of Anaesthesia[v] which records that:

Typically, after oral ingestion (75–150 mg), desired effects begin within 1 h and last 4–6 h. Blood levels in asymptomatic users and those with serious side-effects are often similar, suggesting that adverse reactions are likely to relate to the circumstances in which the drug is taken, and that there may also be an idiosyncratic component. A number of fatalities have been reported with blood levels of 0.1–2.1 mg litre−1. However, a case of a deliberate overdose of MDMA in which the blood level reached 4.3 mg litre−1 with no more than mild sinus tachycardia and a degree of somnolence has been reported. Another analytically documented overdose resulted in a plasma MDMA of 7.72 mg litre−1, the highest recorded in a surviving patient, with just a ‘hangover’, tachycardia and hypertension.31 The highest level reported in association with multi-organ failure in a subsequent survivor was 7 mg litre−1.

Some observations regarding MDMA deaths are that many are from taking a single pill, and can be described as more akin to an idiosyncratic individual allergic reaction to MDMA, making first-time ecstasy use more akin to playing Russian roulette[vi].  A group of friends can all ingest the same amount but only one might die.[vii]  This was precisely the case with Anna Wood, Australia’s fist ecstasy death in 1995.  She took the same pill as her three friends, but only she died.  (Tony Wood, her father, can be contacted through Family First NZ)

We understand that it may seem somewhat confronting that Drug Free Australia is putting the onus of proof onto pill testing advocates themselves concerning the notion that party pill deaths are not mostly from using MDMA or are alternately from MDMA ‘overdoses’.  However, our reasoning is as follows . . .

    1. Advocates assert that pill testing is needed because impurities or unknown drugs in the pills cause deaths (which is rarely the case in our country and likely the same in yours)
    2. Advocates also assert that pill testing is needed because of unknown MDMA purity in party pills, suggesting that deaths are often from MDMA overdose (which is rarely the case in our country and likely the same in yours)
    3. The implicit conclusion from these first two pieces of misinformation is that pure MDMA is safe if ingested in normal recreational quantities (which is against all evidence)
    4. Drug Free Australia further contends that unless NZ advocates clearly and openly publicise that most deaths are tied to MDMA itself, they are personally responsible for the current spurious sense of security surrounding tested MDMA
    5. Drug Free Australia cannot think of a more sure way to widen demand for a dangerous substance via an entirely false sense of security for festival attendees, which will only cause an accelerated escalation in deaths.

We would like to see every NZ parliamentarian ask advocates for a list of names from coroners’ reports of all those deceased after taking party pills where the fatal impurity or other illicit drug in the pills was nominated by the Coroner.  For those found by the Coroner to have overdosed, a list containing the name of the deceased and the report’s estimate of the amount of MDMA ingested.  We suggest the New Zealand lists will be very short, and the list of MDMA deaths long.

I might just mention that Drug Free Australia does recognise that there have been three deaths here in Melbourne in January 2017 from party pills which were due to the drugs 4-FA and 25C-NBOMe.  These drugs were found in purported ecstasy pills, nevertheless these drugs would not have been identified by current pill testing equipment.[viii]  Drug Free Australia also asserts that most GHB overdoses are by users who know they are taking GHB, as was the case in Melbourne, for example, in February 2017.[ix]

Drug Free Australia urges a proactive political response from New Zealand Parliamentarians, which will save the lives of many of your young citizens.

Yours faithfully

 

Major Brian Watters AO [x]
President, Drug Free Australia
Chairman, Prime Minister’s Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) 1998-2005
Australia’s representative to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 2004-2012

Letter provided to Family First NZ to pass on to Members of Parliament.

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19604654 
[ii] https://dancesafe.org/ 
[iii] https://dancesafe.org/mdma-related-deaths-stop-calling-them-overdoses/ 
[iv] https://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/DPA_Fact_Sheet_MDMA.PDF 
[v]  https://academic.oup.com/bja/article/96/6/678/326917 
[vi] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1365-2044.1993.tb06813.x 
[vii] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/22/friends-out-ecstasy-deaths-highest-level-pills 
[viii] https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/3dp5pk/leaked-police-memo-reveals-what-was-in-melbournes-deadly-batch-of-mdma 
[ix] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-19/electric-parade-festival-more-than-20-overdose-hospital/8283828 
[x] https://www.drugfree.org.au/index.php/major-brian-watters-ao-international-liaison-officer.html