30 deaths a year: The agony of Ecstasy
Almost 30 Australians die every year as a result of taking ecstasy and a significant number are killed solely as a result of "MDMA toxicity" - the dangerous chemicals found in the illegal pills, new research revealed today shows.
It comes as the NSW Police Association today hit back at claims by the NSW Coroner that police have somehow "contributed to the deaths" of music festival goers when conducting drug searches.
Death rates caused by the illicit "party drug" ecstasy significantly increased after 2011, a drugs conference at the University of NSW's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre will hear on Wednesday.
An investigation into coronial records across Australia by drug researchers uncovered 392 Australians who died between 2001 and 2016 - with a "notable proportion", 55 dying from the toxic effects of the drug alone.
The majority of deaths, or 189, occurred after users mixed ecstasy with other drugs such as psychostimulants (uppers like Ritalin), alcohol, opioids, marijuana and benzodiazepines.
Another 115 drug users died after traumatic accidents, a tragic 23 individuals ended up committing suicide and another ten passed from related disease. Researchers said the fatal effects of the drug include hypertension, hyperthermia, cardiac arrest and "an elevated risk for traumatic injury and suicide".
The research, MDMA-related deaths in Australia, comes as drug proponents push for legally sanctioned "pill-testing" at music events.
Dr Amanda Roxburgh and other researchers found 81 per cent of victims were male and the median age was 26.
"MDMA-related deaths occurred predominantly among males aged in their mid twenties, with females likely to be significantly younger," Dr Roxburgh will tell the researchers.
When the researchers analysed the concentration of the illicit drug in the blood of the victims, they discovered the median concentration of ecstasy in women's blood was much higher than for men, at 0.70 mg/L versus 0.42mg/L for men.
"Increased manufacture, purity and prevalence of MDMA use in many regions internationally is of concern as the drug is associated with a range of harms," Dr Roxburgh will say.
"Death rates increased significantly between 2001 and 2007, declined between 2008-2010, and increased again between 2011 and 2016."
The new research comes as the NSW Police Association strongly defended the role of police in carrying out their duties at music festivals in the wake of the leaked NSW Coroner's report advocating pill testing.
Acting president of the NSW Police Association Kevin Morton said "any inference made by the Coroner that our members have contributed to the deaths of festival goers is offensive and wrong".
"We are not shying away from the need for a wider public debate - but the forum for that is not the Coroners Court," he said.
"Regrettably aspects of the inquest turned into an unbalanced and unjust blame game.
"I can't say loudly enough that the role of police at festivals has been to responsibly conduct reasonable policing duties.
"On pill testing the one comment we would make is that there is no safe way to take drugs.
"The festival season is already underway and make no mistake there will be drug dealers exploiting young people yet again."
The deputy coroner Harriet Graham's draft report into ecstasy deaths has called for police dogs to be banned from festivals, and personal use of drugs to be decriminalised.
The conference also heard that the median cost of an ecstasy capsule decreased from $25 in 2018 to $20, the lowest figure since reporting began in 2008. Ecstasy pills remained at $25.