With the Rise in Ecstacy Use in Young Australians, Will We Ever Win the War on Drugs?

Ecstasy use amongst Australian teenagers is on the uprise. With new initiatives being put in place such as pill testing and the canning of music festivals, will we ever succeed in the war on drugs?

Ecstasy. Photo credit: Australia Drug Foundation

Gone are the days when teenagers would beg their older siblings to buy them alcohol for a night out. It seems these kids have moved past alcohol and are dabbling with a much harder substance known as ecstasy. Ecstasy, made up mostly of the drug MDMA, offers a euphoric sense of pleasure and energy, and is finding its way into the hands of Australian teens every day.

A recent study shown by The Australian Government and Department of Health describes the increase in ecstasy use amongst Australian teenagers. Paul Dillon, founder of Drug and Alcohol Research Training in Australia is on a mission to educate young people about the dangerous effects these illicit substances can have.

The Australian Secondary School Students’ and Other Drug Study exposed that ecstasy use amongst teens doubled in just three years with five percent of kids aged 12-17 using the drug. Dillon continues to discuss that with the increase in drug use, rates of alcohol and tobacco use have decreased.

In an article by The Sydney Morning Herald, Dillon describes the reasons behind the increased drug use amongst Australian youth. Drugs to young people are so accessible that all you have to do is ask a friend and you could buy an ecstasy pill for just $10. This cheap price makes the allure of drugs that much more enticing and buying alcohol for double the price becomes unnecessary.

Dillon speaks at a number of high schools throughout New South Wales, educating students on the dark side of party drugs such as ecstasy. He states in the article:

“When people don’t have respect for drugs, or perceive that there is some kind of risk involved that’s when you see tragedies occur”

Paul Dillon. Photo credit: Daily Telegraph

I reflected on my experience listening to Paul Dillon speak at my own high school when I was 17. The unbelievable scenarios Dillon was describing left us sheltered school girls in hysterics as we thought that would never happen to us. Being teenagers, we figured we knew best and the chances of that happening were simply too low. That same year a boy in a neighbouring school passed away due to a hallucinogenic drug, jumping out of his window, claiming he could fly. Our feelings of invincibility were shattered.

Young people think they are invincible and have a “that will never happen to me” mentality, just like my friends and I had when we were in our teens. However, there has been five deaths at Australian music festivals between September and December 2018, all related to drugs and all to people under the age of 25. It is no longer an issue of whether it will happen, it’s an issue of when.

Alex Ross-King, 19, passed away at NSW Fomo Festival January 12. Photo credit: MusicFeeds

The high level of recent overdoses in the last few months have created a division in the public’s response to music festivals. The NSW Government has received major criticism over its recent changes to licensing for music festivals. An article in Triple J describes how numerous festivals within NSW are being slammed with huge quotes to have greater numbers of police present. There have also been stricter guidelines when relating to safety and site infrastructure. These quotes and guidelines were sometimes unable to be fulfilled and lead to breaking point for festival Mountain Sounds and it was forced to cancel a week before its due date.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is at the receiving end of the criticism due to her refusal to allow pill testing. According to SBS News, Berejiklian claimed she didn’t want to give people “the green light” when it came to taking drugs. An avalanche of controversy has come over this with a large group fighting against Berejiklian’s views. Many are under the opinion that drugs will always be taken and if there’s a way to monitor what people take, that would be highly beneficial.

Protest for NSW pill testing. Photo credit Bombala times.

Drug use within young Australians is growing. As Paul Dillon describes, drugs such as ecstasy are so accessible and cheap, more and more teenagers are using them. With the NSW government’s refusal for pill testing and increased pressure on festivals to honour tougher regulations, Australian live music has taken a hit. The war on drugs is not over, and maybe never will be, but taking precautions to ensure safe drug use could be a major step forward. After all, nobody is invincible.

Let us know what you think about the current debate surrounding pill testing in New South Wales.