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Registered: 07/26/04
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Party pills have their place [NZ]
    #4423720 - 07/19/05 03:36 PM (12 years, 10 months ago)

Party pills have their place, says pioneer
July 20, 2005 - stuff.co.nz

It's a controversial craze which has taken New Zealand by storm.

In Takapuna you can barely walk a block without coming across a sign for the latest party pill.

Over the past five years an estimated eight million "party pills" have been sold in New Zealand from dairies, hairdressers, sex shops and specialist outlets.

Now the North Shore man who helped introduce them to New Zealand says, unless you're trying to get off hard drugs, you're probably better off without party pills.

"People should remember that these products were only intended for people who were using hard drugs as a way of getting off. If you don't have any drugs in your life, then keep it like that – you're better off. Leave them alone," says Matt Bowden.

He says his own drug habit included ecstasy, LSD and methamphetamine, otherwise known as P.

But during a trip to Australia Mr Bowden realised how devastating drug dependence could be.

"I saw a lot of what drug addiction does to you. I saw drug addicts in the street begging for money and what not, and also saw people using harder drugs, intravenous drugs, going crazy. And I recognised if people had a safer legal alternative there mightn't be quite so many problems."

When a couple of people close to him lost their lives after using illegal drugs, including ecstacy, Mr Bowden decided to turn his own life around.

In 1999, he helped develop New Zealand's first `dance pill' containing benzylpiperazine (BZP), as a "safer, non-addictive alternative" for partygoers.

Mr Bowden is chairman of the Social Tonic Association of New Zealand (STANZ), a self-appointed body which sets guidelines for the sale and manufacture of party pills.

A recent amendment to the misuse of drugs act has outlawed the sale of party pills to people under 18 and makes provision for future regulations concerning the manufacture and marketing of these pills.

Mr Bowden says this is a symbolic move.

"If you have a regulated supply model instead of just making everything illegal, if we allow an industry team to develop safer, non-addictive alternatives then people won't overdose and die, and people don't need to find thousands of dollars to pay for their habits all the time."

Mr Bowden says party pills have been successful at getting drug users off illegal substances like methamphetamine and ecstasy.

"People who are using harder drugs want to meet some need in their life. Whether it gives them energy to help them get through the night, or whether it helps them get out of work mode. If we provide something that meets those consumer needs, but without all the risks and harm associated with them, then of course they'll change across."

Although there have been media reports about party pills' negative side effects, Mr Bowden says hangovers after drinking alcohol are accepted as the norm.

"We don't recommend that people drink a whole lot of beer and then drink some wine and then take some vodka either. In fact with party pills, if you go crazy and you ignore the rules and take far too many, and you take them with alcohol, you are going to have a hangover, and that's a disincentive for irresponsible behaviour."

Mr Bowden rejects claims that party pills could lead to take harder drugs.

"If we took away everything that could be considered a gateway drug we'd have to remove tea and coffee, we'd have to do away with chocolate, I think a lot of women rely on chocolate a little too much and that could be a gateway for ecstasy.

"We'd obviously have to get rid of alcohol and that includes champagne, beer - the whole lot. Probably cigarettes, and maybe sugar."

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