Gold Coast Risks Overdoses of New Psychoactive Substances Leading Up To Schoolies Week
Schoolies week on the Gold Coast marks for many school leavers the opportunity to celebrate but the dangers swirling around the revellers are intensifying every year.
Queensland Schoolies will be partying between 19-26 November while Southern state school leavers have from 26 November to 10 December to celebrate their farewell to 12 years of schooling.
For many it's their first real foray into the adult world, a chance to enjoy the burgeoning excitement for future opportunities, whatever they may be.
The revelry and excesses at Schoolies week have been well documented and have become a major cause for concern for many parents as well as a selection of students, some of whom opt for a more secluded celebration.
The recent emergence of strong synthetic drugs, known as new psychoactive substances, or NPSs, has compounded concerns for the safety of schoolies celebrating o the Gold Coast and around the rest of the nation.
NPss are synthetic, psychoactive substances used in place of or in combination with traditional substances like marijuana, MDMA and ecstasy.
NPSs are often sold under the guise of incense, potpourri or bath salts and have continually changing chemical makeups; measures taken in an attempt to circumvent illicit substance laws. The result of the substance's changing compounds is that a user has no idea of what they are ingesting, the strength or how their body will react.
In some cases, the chemical potency of these products has been found to change drastically within the same package, let alone the broader batch. The result is that ingesting substances from the same packet can cause little-to-no effect, and seconds later be a severe medical risk. Compounding this issue is the fact that local drug dealers are mislabelling these substances and selling them as MDMA, ecstasy or marijuana unbeknownst to the buyer.
The results have been devastating. Jut recently the Gold Coast experienced a record breaking number of overdoses, with 16 people being hospitalised in 2 days.
Many of those hospitalised thought that they were taking ecstasy, however toxicity reports indicate the presence of synthetic psychoactive compounds, believed to be the drug M-Bomb.
Whilst naming specific products may help in preventing further deaths, it is important to remember that the chemical compounds of these products are completely inconsistent, meaning that all synthetic drugs pose the same danger.
Tragically, one of the hospitalised victims, Victorian footballer Riki Stephens, a 27-year-old, who was on the Gold Coast celebrating the end of the football season, has subsequently died.
The prevalence and danger of these drugs can't be denied, and with Schoolies approaching there have been concerns for the safety of the celebrating students.
Despite the existence of a blanket ban on psychoactive substances in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia, the substances are readily available.
Prohibition has a historical legacy of inefficiency; banning the substances will not eradicate them and preventing young people from attending events such as Schoolies will not ensure their safety.
Parents need to discuss drug safety and the dangers associated with particular substances with their children.
It's crucial to help young people to make sensible, informed and empowered decisions. Drug use is not condoned but a level of pragmatism is needed in order to ensure the safety of teenagers whose completion of the school system may make them think they can now experiment with any aspect of the adult world.
Opening up dialogue about recreational drug use, promoting education on substance use and gathering information about the particular dangers of particular substances will help to protect all members of our community.
Leading up to Schoolies week, it is important that families and everyone else involved be aware of the unpredictable nature and danger associated with new psychoactive substances.
For more information on these substances and their effects visit the Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation's DrugInfo page, and consult their Drugs at Schoolies Week page for specific advice on lowering the risk during this celebration.
Those who are looking for a more relatable forum might like to listen to Triple J's Hack show which has recently explored the issue of NPSs and offered some realistic advice on harm minimisation.