Selling MDMA In Shops Could Be A Smart Move, Drug Experts Say
Young people are dying after taking party drugs -- so could the solution be to sell them in pharmacies instead?
Dr Alex Wodak is one of Australia's leading campaigners for pill testing, regulation of cannabis and abolishing fines for personal drug use.
Wodak believes regulating the party drug MDMA, so it is manufactured in a controlled way instead of in illegal labs, could drastically reduce the number of deaths.
"MDMA is a low-risk drug. It used to be used as a medicine, but it is clear when it is distributed on the black market, it is a high-risk drug," Wodak told 10 daily.
"It is being made by amateur chemists who are not experienced, who use crummy equipment, with no quality control process. There is no control over the sale of the drug and no harm reduction information."
High-risk versions of the drug , sometimes with lethal components, are being manufactured and sold on the black market. Wodak claimed that proper regulation and legitimised manufacturing of MDMA could reduce some -- but not all -- the risks associated with taking it.
"If it went through a pharmacy environment and a controlled production process it would be controlled and made the same every time and will not contain lethal components," Wodak said.
The NSW Minister for Health and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has been contacted for comment on the idea.
For MDMA to be sold in stores, the drug would need to be made legal. Even if MDMA was regulated, Wodak says the argument to introduce pill testing would not be cancelled out.
"There will always be a black market unfortunately, and the smaller the better in my opinion, but, while there is a black market there will be a need for pill testing," Wodak told 10 daily.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia's (PSA) National President Dr Chris Freeman declared his support of pill testing last week, confirming the PSA would support testing trials.
"Pill testing is a harm minimisation service that analyses the content of illicit drugs to warn people about unknown and potentially lethal contaminants," Freeman said in a statement.
“The evidence from Europe is clear: pill testing saves lives. It’s time to invest in national trials and research so we can make informed decisions about pill testing. Law enforcement by itself does not stop people from dying but pill testing, as a supplement strategy, can.”
But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian reiterated on Tuesday that people who consume drugs like MDMA are breaking the law.
"There is no safe way to take illicit drugs,” the Premier told reporters on Tuesday.
Of course, regulating the production of drugs doesn't mean they would then carry no risk.
"MDMA can kill,” NSW Ministry of Health's Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said in a statement.
The NSW government had additional critical care medical teams on site at the Electric Gardens, Hardcore Till I Die and Rolling Loud music festivals over the Australia Day long weekend to manage the risks drug pose to revellers.
This followed a spate of drug-related festival deaths across the country in recent months.
Wodak, however, isn't focused on stopping people taking drugs altogether, but making consuming them safer through regulation.
"It is important to keep our focus on what we are trying to achieve here," Wodak said.
"What I would like to see is that we minimise the number of deaths, disease, corruption, violence and crime. Whether or not we reduce drug use really is a secondary consideration."
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