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Australia Rising number of young ecstasy users doubling down with cocaine

03:35  16 october  2019
03:35  16 october  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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Rising numbers of regular ecstasy users are also taking cocaine . The researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre also found There were dramatic jumps in ketamine and amyl nitrate use - known as amyls or poppers - with more than one-third of ecstasy users reporting they

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Rising numbers of regular ecstasy users are also taking cocaine.© Supplied Rising numbers of regular ecstasy users are also taking cocaine.

Cocaine is becoming increasingly popular in Australia's party drug scene, with rising numbers of regular ecstasy users also taking the $300-per-gram stimulant.

More than two-thirds of young Australians partial to MDMA also reported using cocaine - the highest proportion since monitoring began 16 years ago, according to the latest Australian Drug Trends Report 2019.

The researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre also found vaping, "poppers" and ketamine were a hit with regular ecstasy users.

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Rising number of young ecstasy users doubling down with cocaine . Researchers also found vaping, poppers and ketamine were a hit with regular ecstasy users .

Cocaine use has doubled in the UK over the last five years, with close to a million Brits taking the drug last year. “The average age is someone in their mid-thirties and the biggest demographic rise that I see is males in the restaurant and financial professions.

The findings drew on the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre’s (NDARC) Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System, which collated in-depth interviews with 797 Australians who had used ecstasy or other stimulants at least six times in the previous six months. Their median age was 22 years.

The rise in cocaine use was less surprising, given global production was at record levels, program lead Dr Amy Peacock said.

Just under 60 percent of participants said the drug was easy or very easy to come by, though only 7 percent reported using cocaine weekly or more frequently.

There were dramatic jumps in ketamine and amyl nitrate use - known as amyls or poppers - with more than one-third of ecstasy users reporting they had taken these substances (35 percent and 38 percent respectively).

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"We are definitely seeing all of these drugs increase in popularity," said program lead Dr Amy Peacock ahead of the report's release at NDARC's annual symposium on Wednesday.

Two in five Australians who regularly use ecstasy (MDMA) also reported using e-cigarettes (40 percent) - up from 34 percent in 2018.

In NSW, more than half of the study participants reported also using e-cigarettes.

But the uptick in vaping among ecstasy users was particularly intriguing amid heated debate over the safety of e-cigarettes as smoking-cessation tools and concerns about their recreational appeal to young people who aren’t addicted to tobacco.

Roughly 83 percent of participants smoked tobacco and about half used it daily, but e-cigarettes were typically only used twice a month.

Dr Peacock said it was difficult to know whether users were swapping tobacco for e-cigarettes, but it was telling that their vaping was relatively infrequent.

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"It could be more recreational rather than for smoking cessation," Dr Peacock said, referring to a 2015 study that found that most psychostimulant users were experimenting with vaping, not to stop smoking.

The dramatic jump in amyls comes as the government prepares to ease access to the inhalants from prescription-only to over-the-counter from February 2020. Dr Peacock said it was too early to predict how the switch would affect its popularity. Currently poppers are most commonly sold under the counter at sex shops.

Concerningly, 90 percent of participants reported taking a cocktail of depressants, cannabis or hallucinogens and dissociatives when they last used a stimulant, increasing their risk of overdose or other bad reactions.

For instance, mixing ketamine with alcohol can increase the risk of respiratory depression, where a person can experience slowed breathing, coma and even death, Dr Peacock said.

Almost one in four participants reported having a non-fatal overdose after drinking alcohol, 27 percent after any depressant drug and 22 percent after a stimulant, according to the report.

Cannabis was still the most commonly reported drug of choice, with 85 percent of participants having recently used and more than a quarter using daily.

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