West Australian Trends in Ecstasy and Related Drug Markets 2005: Findings from the Party Drugs Initiative (PDI)

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Resource Type: Technical Reports

NDARC Technical Report No. 253

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This report presents the results of an ongoing study monitoring ecstasy and related drug markets within WA. It is part of a nationwide study, which commenced in NSW and Victoria in 2000 with the addition of other states and territories in 2003. In 2000, the pre-existing Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS), designed to monitor use of the main illicit drugs in Australia, was expanded to explore the feasibility of monitoring trends in the 'party drugs' market. The current report provides findings for the third year of data collection in WA. obtained from three sources:

  1. Quantitative interviews with 100 current regular ecstasy users.
  2. Qualitative interviews with key experts who have regular contact with ecstasy users and are employed in areas including health, outreach, and law enforcement.
  3. Analysis of various indicator data from health and law enforcement sources.

Demographic characteristics of regular ecstasy users (REU)
For the purpose of this study, regular ecstasy users are a population defined by their use of tablets sold as ecstasy on at least a monthly basis. The sample recruited for the current survey was found to be mostly similar to that of the previous year. The mean age was 22.7 years, which was not significantly different to the mean age of 22 years in 2004. The sample comprised of 58% males (59% in 2004) and 90% reported a heterosexual identity (89% in 2004). Almost the entire sample (99%) was of English speaking background as in 2004 (97%) and only 3% reported Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent (1% in 2004). As in 2004, the current sample had a mean of 11.5 school years, and approximately a third was in current full-time employment.

Significant differences found between the REU samples were as follows. There was a decrease in the proportion of unemployed from 24% in 2004 to 15% in 2005. Related to this, part-time employment increased to 36% in 2005 compared to 22% in 2004. The only other significant difference related to previous prison conviction with 2% of the current sample reporting a conviction compared to 16% in 2004.

Patterns of drug use among REU
As with previous samples, current REU commonly engaged in polydrug use while the extent of this use significantly increased in 2005. Lifetime use had a mean of 10.6 drug classes in 2005 compared to 8.8 classes in 2004. Use during the last six months also increased to a mean of 7.7 drug classes in 2005 compared to 6.7 classes in 2004. Over half the current sample reported use of the following drugs within this time period: ecstasy (100%), alcohol (98%), methamphetamine powder (85%), cannabis (83%), pharmaceutical stimulants (73%), tobacco (72%), and crystal methamphetamine (69%). In 2005, there were significant increases in both lifetime and recent use of cocaine and dlysergic acid (LSD). Prevalence of use of other drugs related to ecstasy, such as ketamine, gamma-hydroxy-butyrate (GHB) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDA) remained low in WA.

In 2005, 22% of respondents reported ever injecting any drug, which was the same proportion as last year. However, there was a significant decrease in those who reported recently injecting (during the last 6 months) from 20% in 2004 to 12% in 2005.

Ecstasy
Patterns of ecstasy use across the samples in 2004 and 2005 were mostly similar. Ecstasy was nominated as the drug of choice by the highest proportion of respondents in the current survey (51%) as was the case in the previous year (44%). Pills were by far the most common form of ecstasy used, and swallowing was the predominant method of administration. Sixty-eight percent of respondents typically used more than one tablet during a session with a mean of 1.7 tablets used in a session. The majority of respondents reported typically using other drugs with ecstasy (90%) and during recovery or 'come down' after ecstasy use (86%).

There were significant differences between REU samples regarding frequency of ecstasy use. In 2005, the mean days ecstasy was used in the previous six months was approximately 20 days compared to 16.4 days in 2004. This means that, on average, the current sample were using ecstasy at least 3 times a month. Furthermore, 30% of respondents reported using ecstasy weekly or more compared to 21% in 2004. Nightclubs were reported as the usual location of ecstasy use by the majority of REU in both years, however, there was a significant increase in its prevalence from 66% in 2004 to 76% in 2005. 'Live music event' also significantly increased as a usual venue of use from 35% in 2004 to 60% in 2005. In contrast, there was a significant decrease in using at friend's home from 62% in 2004 to 51% in 2005.

Price, purity and availability of ecstasy
The median price of ecstasy reported in 2005 was $40 per tablet compared to $50 in 2004. Price was rated as stable during the previous 6 months by approximately two thirds of the sample in both years. In 2005, the majority of respondents reported obtaining ecstasy using money from paid employment (91%) and receiving it as a gift from friends (72%), as found in 2004.

In 2005, current purity of ecstasy was rated as medium by the highest proportion of respondents (40%) compared to high in 2004 (48%). While 36% of the current sample reported purity as fluctuating during the previous 6 months, 30% reported it as stable, thereby highlighting the subjective nature of such perceptions. Current availability of ecstasy was rated as 'very easy' by the majority of REU in both years. Recent availability in both years, during the past 6 months, was also rated as 'stable'.

Friends remained the most common person from whom to score ecstasy, reported by 92% in 2005 and 89% in 2004. Accordingly, friend's home was the most common location for scoring ecstasy, reported by 71% in 2005 and 72% in 2004. However, the use of alternative sources for scoring significantly decreased across survey years. In 2005, 36% reported scoring from known dealers compared to 53% in 2004, and 20% from unknown dealers compared to 33% in the previous year. A similar decrease was also observed in scoring from acquaintances, which declined from 47% in 2004 to 24% in 2005.

Ecstasy markets and patterns of purchasing
In 2005, ecstasy was purchased from a median of four persons in the previous six months, with most buying it 7–12 times (42%). The majority of respondents reported buying it for self and others (71%) and a median of four pills was purchased at a time. Almost the entire sample (87%) reported being able to buy other drugs from their main dealer at the time of purchasing ecstasy. Those drugs reported as most available were speed powder (82%), crystal methamphetamine (72%) and cannabis (71%).

The 2005 PDI survey asked about the possible influence of several factors on both price and use of ecstasy. Increase in cost was attributed by most respondents to 'buying ecstasy at a public venue' (69%) and 'decreased availability of ecstasy generally' (62%). The majority perceived a decrease in cost as related to 'buying a larger quantity' (96%), 'knowing the supplier well' (88%) and 'supplier close to the original source' (70%). The factor identified as most likely to have no effect on cost was increased police activity (66%).

No factor was identified by the majority as likely to increase use of ecstasy. Those factors nominated by the greatest proportion were 'friends used ecstasy more often' (37%) and 'ecstasy became easier to get' (36%). In contrast, several factors were identified by the majority as likely to decrease use with most nominating 'purity of ecstasy went down a lot' (86%) and 'negative effects of ecstasy on relationships' (85%), 'work/study' (82%), 'mental health' (80%) and 'physical health' (77%). Factors identified as having no influence again related to law enforcement and included 'reduced chance of getting caught by police' (84%), and 'penalties for ecstasy use were reduced' (84%) or 'were increased' (76%).

Methamphetamine
There were no significant differences between the current sample and that of the previous year regarding use of methamphetamine powder (speed). In 2005, 94% reported lifetime use of speed compared to 88% in 2004, and 85% reported using speed in the last 6 months compared to 78% in 2004. Methods of use were also similar except for a significant increase in swallowing reported by 71% in 2005 compared to 56% in 2004.

Lifetime use of methamphetamine base significantly increased, reported by 59% in 2005 compared to 46% in 2004. There was no significant difference in recent use, reported by 38% in 2005 compared to 31% in 2004. While there were no significant differences in rates of methods of use, swallowing was the most common method in 2005 compared to snorting in 2004. Swallowing was reported by 63% in 2005 compared to 52% in 2004, and snorting reported by 53% in 2005 compared to 58% in 2004.

Lifetime use of crystal methamphetamine remained the same, reported by 88% in 2005 and 89% in 2004. However, there was a significant decrease in use of crystal during the last six months to 69% in 2005 compared to 80% in 2004. Significant changes were also found for methods of use with a significant decrease in smoking (77% in 2005 versus 92% in 2004) and a significant increase in swallowing (57% in 2005 versus 43% in 2004).

The median price per point for all types of methamphetamine (powder, base and crystal) remained the same as last year at $50. The median price for a gram of speed also remained the same at $300. There was a slight increase in the median price of a gram of base to $325 in 2005 ($300 in 2004), while the price of crystal decreased to a median of $350 per gram ($400 in 2004). With regards changes in the cost of methamphetamines during the previous 6 months, most respondents reported the price as 'stable' for all types.

With regards purity, 40% of those who commented for speed rated it as 'medium'. Equal proportions of 41% of those who commented for base rated it as 'medium' and 'high'. The greatest proportion of those commenting on crystal rated it as high, however, this represented only 39% with 26% rating purity as 'medium'. Speed was rated as either 'very easy' (49%) or 'easy' (45%) to obtain by the majority of respondents. Availability of base was rated as 'easy' by 44% and as 'difficult' by 31% while the greatest proportion rated availability of crystal as 'easy' (50%). Ratings of availability as 'very easy' increased for base from 7% in 2004 to 25% in 2005, while they decreased for crystal from 61% in 2004 to 30% in 2005. Availability was rated as 'stable' during the last 6 months by the highest proportion of respondents for all forms of methamphetamine in 2005.

Cocaine
Use of cocaine significantly increased across survey years for both lifetime and recent use. In 2005, 57% reported ever using cocaine compared to only 36% in 2004. Similarly, 35% of the current sample reported using cocaine in the last 6 months compared to only 16% in 2004.

This increase in use maybe reflected in user perceptions of a trend toward improved availability of cocaine. In 2005, availability was rated as either 'easy' (36%) or 'difficult' (43%) by the majority of respondents compared to 'difficult' (57%) or 'very difficult' (29%) in 2004. Caution must be exercised in interpreting these findings as the number of REU reporting remained low, but comments of increased presence of cocaine were also noted in 'key expert' interviews.

In 2005, the median price per gram of cocaine was $350, and 60% of those who commented rated price as 'stable' during the previous six months. Equal proportions of 38% rated current purity as 'low' and 'medium, and purity was rated as 'stable' by 64% during the last six months.

LSD
Use of LSD also significantly increased across survey years for both lifetime and recent use. Those reporting ever using LSD increased to 71% in 2005 from 50% in 2004, while use in the last 6 months increased to 35% in 2005 from 11% in 2004.

Once again, this increase in use maybe accounted for by a perceived change in availability. In 2004, availability of LSD was rated as 'difficult' (45%) or 'very difficult' (40%) by the majority of respondents whereas in 2005, availability was rated equally as 'difficult' and 'easy' by 34%. Similarly, availability in the previous six months was rated as 'stable' by 55% in 2004 while in 2005, 47% rated it as 'stable' and 41% rated it as 'easier'.

The median price of LSD remained the same as last year at $25 per tab. In 2005, 38% reported the price as 'increasing' during the last 6 months, while 34% reported it as 'stable'. Current purity was rated as 'high' by 59% in 2005 compared to only 25% in 2004. The greatest proportion of respondents in 2005 was unable to comment on changes in purity of LSD during the preceding six months.

Ketamine
Prevalence of ketamine use remained similar with lifetime use reported by 25% in 2005 compared to 21% in 2004, and use in the last 6 months by 11% in 2005 compared to 10% in 2004. Only five respondents elected to comment on items concerning price, purity, availability, location of use and source of the drug. With such small numbers reporting across survey years, it is difficult to draw conclusions or make comparisons regarding the ketamine market.

MDA
Lifetime use (ever used) of MDA remained the same as 2004 with 19% of respondents reporting ever using the drug. However, there was a significant increase in recent use with 11% of respondents in 2005 reporting use in the last 6 months compared to 6% in 2004. This represented a continuing trend in increased, recent use of MDA since 2003. As with last year, only three respondents elected to comment on items regarding market aspects of MDA and, again, few conclusions can be reached on the basis of such limited data.

GHB
In 2005, the proportion of respondents who reported lifetime use of GHB remained the same as last year at 10%. Prevalence of recent use remained low with 3% in 2005 reporting use of GHB in the last 6 months, compared to 5% in 2004. Only one respondent elected to comment on items referring to price, purity, availability, location of use and source of the drug.

Patterns of other drug use
Lifetime use of alcohol was reported by 99% of respondents which was unchanged from that of 2004 (99%). Recent use was also similar across survey years, reported by 98% in 2005 compared to 92% in 2004. There was a substantial increase in the median number of days alcohol was used in the last six months from 24 days in 2004 to 70 days in 2005. This increase in frequency of alcohol consumption was also observed in the context of ecstasy use. In 2005, 70% reported typically using alcohol with ecstasy compared to 40% in 2004. Those consuming a large amount of alcohol, also increased with 69% in 2005 typically consuming more than 5 standard drinks, compared to 55% in 2004. Similarly, use of alcohol during 'come down' from ecstasy doubled, as reported by 52% in 2005 compared to 26% in 2004. Within this group, 72% in 2005 reported typically consuming more than 5 standard drinks compared to 62% in 2004.

Prevalence of cannabis use was very similar across survey years with lifetime use reported by 97% in 2004 and 99% in 2005, and recent use by 85% in 2004 and 83% in 2005. An increase in frequency of use was again found with a median of 60 days use in the last six months compared to 47 days in 2004. Use of cannabis with ecstasy increased from 32% in 2004 to 47% in 2005, while use of cannabis to 'come down' from ecstasy remained the same (63% in 2004 versus 62% in 2005).

Tobacco use remained unchanged across survey years, both with respect to lifetime use (84% in 2004 versus 86% in 2005) and recent use (73% in 2004 versus 72% in 2005). The median number of days tobacco was used during the previous 6 months also remained the same at 180 (1-180). However, rates of use in the context of ecstasy use increased with 60% in 2005 reporting typically using tobacco with ecstasy compared to 43% in 2004. Similarly, 55% in 2005 reported using tobacco to 'come down' from ecstasy compared to 38% in 2004.

In 2005, pharmaceutical stimulants such as dexamphetamine and Ritalin, were included in the PDI survey as a distinct drug class. Use of these drugs by REU was high with 89% reporting lifetime use and 73% reported use in the last 6 months. The median number of days used in this time period was 10 (1-180). However, pharmaceutical stimulants did not appear to be used in association with ecstasy with 28% reporting use with ecstasy and 17% reported use to 'come down' from ecstasy.

Significant increases were also found for the use of other pharmaceutical medicines. Lifetime use of benzodiazepines increased to 49% in 2005 compared to 35% in 2004. A significant increase was also found for use during the previous 6 months, reported by 39% in 2005 compared to 29% in 2004. In 2005, the median number of days used during this period was 4 (1-180). Few respondents reported typically using benzodiazepines with ecstasy (5% in 2005 and 2% in 2004), while use during 'come down' increased to 16% in 2005 from 7% in 2004.

There were also significant increases in use of 'other opiates', which included morphine, pethidine and over-the-counter medications containing codeine. Lifetime use was reported by 41% in 2005 compared to 18% in 2004, and recent use reported by 27% in 2005 compared to 10% in 2004. In 2005, the median number of days used during the past six months was 3 (1-48). Only one respondent in 2005 reported typically using these drugs with ecstasy and five reported typically using them to 'come down' from ecstasy.

There were no significant differences across survey years for use of anti-depressants, with lifetime use reported at 32% in 2005 compared to 25% in 2004, and recent use at 13% in both years. In 2005, the median number of days used during the past six months was 24 (3–180). No respondents in 2005 reported typically using anti-depressants with ecstasy and only three reported using the drug to 'come down' from ecstasy.

Participants were also asked about use of inhalants, including amyl nitrate and nitrous oxide. Lifetime use of amyl nitrate significantly increased, as reported by 46% in 2005 compared to 36% in 2004. Use in the last 6 months remained unchanged (17% in 2005 versus 15% in 2004) and in 2005, was used a median of 2 days (1-40) in this time period. Only one respondent in 2005 reported typically using amyl nitrate both with ecstasy and during 'come down' from ecstasy.

Lifetime use of nitrous oxide remained unchanged, as reported by 63% in 2005 compared to 62% in 2004. A decrease in recent use was observed with 34% of the current sample reporting use in the previous six months compared to 43% in 2004, however, this wasn't significant. In 2005, the median number of days used during this time period was 4 (1–96). Use of nitrous oxide with ecstasy was reported by 14% and use during 'come down' from ecstasy was reported by 16% in 2005.

Prevalence of use of heroin, buprenorphine and morphine remained low amongst REU. In 2005, 15% reported lifetime use of heroin compared to 13% in 2004, and 6% reported recent use compared to 8% in 2004. Rates of buprenorphine were unchanged across surveys with lifetime use reported by 5% and recent use by 2% in 2005. There was a significant increase in lifetime use of methadone, however, proportions were small (8%  in 2005 versus 4% in 2004), and recent use was uncommon (3% in 2005 versus 1% in 2004). No respondents reported use of heroin, methadone or buprenorphine with ecstasy, and two reported use of heroin and buprenorphine to 'come down' from ecstasy. Magic mushrooms were included in the 2005 survey as a separate drug class with 53% of respondents reporting ever having used the drug. Fourteen percent reported use in the last 6 months with a median of 1 day use during this time period (1-20). Recent use by all of these respondents was by swallowing.

Lifetime use of other drugs not specified in the 2005 PDI survey was reported by 14% of respondents and 9% reported use in the last six months. These drugs were used a median of 3 (1-15) days during the past six months and included 2CT2 (3%), 2CB (2%), DMT (2%) and DXM (2%). These drugs are understood to be hallucinogenic amphetamine type substances, referred to on the street as 'trippy speed'. A member of the police service interviewed as a 'key expert' also mentioned the appearance of DMT and 2CT in Perth.

Drug information-seeking behaviour
In 2005, REU were asked how often they find out the content and purity of ecstasy and other party drugs before taking them. Half the sample reported 'never' finding out content and purity of other party drugs, compared to only 19% not seeking this information for ecstasy. A quarter of the sample each reported finding out 'always' and 'most times' for ecstasy. Of those who sought this information for ecstasy, the most common sources were 'friends' (83%) and 'websites' (62%). 'Pill testing kits' were reportedly used by 30%, with half of this sample using them 'sometimes'. Information resources considered most useful, if locally available, were 'testing kits' (58%) and 'local website' (57%).

Respondents were also asked to comment on several statements related to their use of ecstasy. The greatest proportion reported that logos were 'never' a good indication of what a pill would be like (42%), and 63% reported that pills 'sometimes' contain little or no 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Responses to legal issues were varied, with 41% reporting that use of ecstasy should 'never' be legal, followed by 30% reporting it should 'always' be legal. There was greater consensus in regards to selling ecstasy, with 54% reporting it should 'never' be legal and only 15% reporting it should 'always' be legal.

Risk behaviour
Respondents reported on risk behaviour related to injecting, sexual practices, and driving behaviour. As in 2004, 22% of the current sample reported ever injecting, while recent injecting significantly decreased from 20% in 2004 to 12% in 2005. The current sample reported speed powder as the most common drug ever injected, first injected and recently injected, while crystal methamphetamine was reported by most as the drug last injected. Home was by far the most common place to inject, reported by 92% of those who had injected in the last 6 months.

In 2005, 96% reported having penetrative sex in the last 6 months, with most having one partner during this period (44%). Anal sex was reported by 22%, and 88% reported having penetrative sex while on drugs. Most reported having sex under the influence of drugs 3–5 times (30%) or over 11 times (29%) in the last 6 months. Of the drugs used, 88% reported ecstasy, 52% alcohol, 44% cannabis, 33% speed powder and 27% crystal methamphetamine.

Eighty five percent of the current sample had driven a car in the last 6 months. Within this group, 57% reported driving under the influence of alcohol and 82% reported driving within one hour of taking a drug. The majority reported driving after taking ecstasy (69%), speed powder (57%) and cannabis (56%).

Health-related issues
In 2005, REU were asked about help seeking behaviour and 22% reported accessing a health service in relation to their drug use during the last 6 months. The most common service was GP, reported by 46%, followed by counsellor and psychologist, both reported by 41%.

With regards health screening tests, 32% of the total sample had been vaccinated for Hepatitis B, 42% tested for Hepatitis C, 40% tested for HIV, and 47% had undergone a sexual health check-up.

Criminal activity, policing and market changes
Rates of criminal activity were unchanged with 32% of the current sample reporting committing a crime in the last month, compared to 30% in 2004. In 2005, this comprised of 24% drug dealing, 9% property crime, 6% fraud, and 2% violence. Fourteen percent of the current sample had been arrested in the last 12 months with most reporting the offence as driving under the influence of alcohol (29%).

In 2005, the greatest proportion of respondents reported police activity had 'increased' in the last six months (43%) while most in 2004 reported it as 'stable' (38%). Despite this change in perception, the vast majority in both years reported that police activity did not make scoring drugs more difficult (80% in 2005 and 89% in 2004).

Perceptions of changes in ecstasy and related drug markets were varied with 59% reporting new happenings in drug use, while 41% reported it had stayed the same in the last 6 months.

Implications
Polydrug use remained common among regular ecstasy users and indicated an increasing trend. The average number of drug types used, both recently and in their lifetime, was greater than that reported in previous years. Amongst current REU, over half had used alcohol (98%), methamphetamine powder (85%), cannabis (83%), pharmaceutical stimulants (73%), tobacco (72%), and crystal methamphetamine (69%) in the preceding six months. Furthermore, as was found last year, almost the entire sample used other drugs with ecstasy and to 'come down' from ecstasy. Such findings may attest to the experimental nature of drug use in this user group.

With this in mind, particular attention is drawn to the consumption of alcohol among REU. While rates of alcohol use have remained above 90% for both lifetime and recent use since 2003, there was a large increase in the frequency of alcohol use in 2005. The median days of alcohol use during the last 6 months increased from 24 days in 2004 to 70 days in 2005. This increase was also evident in the context of ecstasy use, with 70% of the current sample reporting use of alcohol with ecstasy compared to 40% in 2004, and 52% using alcohol during 'come down' from ecstasy compared to 26% in 2004.

Furthermore, while 55% of the 2004 sample reported consuming more than 5 standard drinks with ecstasy, 69% reported such consumption in 2005. In addition, 72% of the current sample consumed more than 5 standard drinks during recovery from ecstasy compared to 62% in 2004.

The findings related to alcohol use maybe considered in relation to two other areas investigated in the PDI. Firstly, there has been a trend across years towards 'nightclubs' as the usual location of ecstasy use. In 2004, 'raves/dance parties' were the most common location of use, reported by 69%, and had a similar rate in 2005 of 68%. However, usual use in 'nightclubs' increased from 66% in 2004 to 76% in 2005.

Furthermore, reports of 'nightclubs' as the most recent place of use increased from 26% in 2004 to 36% in 2005. The observed increase in alcohol use may therefore be reflective of an apparent shift toward use of ecstasy in licensed venues. On this basis, it maybe of interest to explore any change in the meaning of alcohol for this user group, given that its use was not traditionally part of the ecstasy 'raver' scene.

Secondly, a substantial proportion of REU reported engaging in driving risk behaviour in both years. In 2004, 46% of those who had driven a car in the previous 6 months reported doing so under the influence of alcohol. In 2005, this rate increased to 56% with an average of 12 times in this period (equivalent to twice a month). In addition, 82% of the current sample reported driving soon after taking a drug. The most commonly reported drugs were ecstasy (69%), speed (57%) and cannabis (56%). Given the potential dangers associated with such practices, these behaviours maybe a worthwhile target for harm reduction messages.

With regards to other drug types, methamphetamine use remained prevalent among regular ecstasy users in WA. Use of speed has been consistently high across survey years, both in rates of lifetime and recent use. In 2005, there was a significant increase in the proportion of respondents who had ever used base and a significant decrease in recent use of crystal. Investigation of the market aspects of methamphetamine suggest that this maybe accounted for by a reduction in availability of crystal and less consistency in its purity.

Prevalence of use of cocaine significantly increased both in lifetime and recent use. This was accompanied by user reports of a decrease in the price per gram and a shift toward increased availability. 'Key experts' also commented on a recent appearance of cocaine in the local drug scene. Perceptions of current market trends therefore suggest that increased use of cocaine maybe attributed to reduced cost and improved accessibility.

Use of LSD also significantly increased in both lifetime and recent use, and again there was a corresponding shift in perceptions of availability. In addition, user reports indicated current purity of LSD was higher. Interestingly, the majority of those who responded felt they could not comment on recent changes in purity, suggesting that the re-emerging LSD market is relatively new. The current findings therefore imply that increased rates of LSD use maybe accounted for by heightened purity and a trend toward greater availability.

Other drug types for which significant differences were found included increases in both lifetime and recent use of benzodiazepines and 'other opiates'. In addition, 'pharmaceutical stimulants' were included for the first time as a separate drug class in 2005 and were found to be commonly used among REU. Lifetime use was reported by 89% of the sample and recent use by 73%.

'Friends' and 'friend's home' were the most commonly reported source and location of purchase for all major drug types including ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine, and LSD. With regards ecstasy, rates of purchasing from 'friends' remained around 90% and from 'friend's home' around 70% for the last 3 years. In 2005, proportions reporting purchasing from other sources significantly decreased for 'known dealers', 'unknown dealers' and 'acquaintances'. As there were no corresponding increases in other categories, the findings suggest that 'friends' were not only the dominant source for obtaining ecstasy, but maybe an increasingly exclusive source.

For the first time in 2005, respondents were asked about information-seeking behaviour related to drug content and purity. Finding out such information at least 'sometimes' was reported by half the sample for drugs other than ecstasy and by 81% for ecstasy. The vast majority reported finding out such information for ecstasy from 'friends' (83%). In response to what resources they would find personally useful, the majority nominated 'pill testing kits' (58%) and 'local website' (57%). It is noted that the results of these tests may influence subsequent drug taking behaviour, as most stated they would not take a pill if a test indicated it contained ketamine or showed no reaction. This suggests that REU not only prefer to be informed about the content and purity of drugs, but that obtaining such information may have an impact on their drug consumption.

In 2005, almost a quarter of the sample had accessed a health service in relation to their drug use in the last 6 months. GP, counselor and psychologist were the most common services sought. In addition, many respondents perceived problems associated with their drug use, with almost half the sample reporting occupational/study problems, and relationship/social problems. In response to perceived risks associated with ecstasy use, the most commonly identified were potential psychological and physical harms, with depression nominated as the greatest individual risk factor. Given the findings for services most accessed and concerns commonly reported, it is recommended that mental health indicators be investigated in this user group.

Citation: George, J. & Lenton, S. (2006) West Australian Trends in Ecstasy and Related Drug Markets 2005: Findings from the Party Drugs Initiative (PDI), Sydney: National Drug and  Alcohol Research Centre.