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In the 01/30/2019 edition:

Open Letter To New Zealand Parliamentarians: Re Pill Testing Within Australia & NZ

Jan 30, 2019 02:22 pm

DRUG FREE AUSTRALIA 30 January 2019
Drug Free Australia has been very concerned about the national pill testing push within Australia and New Zealand which has chiefly been led here by members of an organisation, Harm Reduction Australia.

Our concerns have pivoted on the fact that MDMA, which is a most sought-after substance at music festivals, has been the substance responsible for almost all deaths within Australia, rather than impurities in party pills or other illicit drugs in the pill which are unknown to the user.  To that end I am communicating with you as a New Zealand Parliamentarian.

We are urging you, as a parliamentarian who makes evidence-based decisions for the well-being of your nation’s individuals, to totally reject any further discussion on pill testing in New Zealand until such time as its advocates have demonstrated from available NZ Coroners’ reports that 

  1. it is NOT the substance MDMA, or MDMA in a polydrug use context, which is chiefly responsible for the many NZ deaths
    OR 
  1. that most of the deaths are alternately from MDMA consumed in amounts beyond what is considered normal for recreational use

In Australia we have previously made our view known to Australian politicians, a view which has been backed by strong evidence from the medical literature, and this has now led to many parliamentarians here no longer considering pill testing as an option.  In our communications we had asserted that MDMA is the sole drug responsible for many of the deaths, but has also contributed via polydrug use to many others.

We have cited the only Australian study on ecstasy-related deaths.  This studied 82 deaths over a five-year period (2001-2005)[i] where MDMA was the sole drug responsible for 23% of the deaths, with another 59% due to MDMA taken in combination with other licit and illicit drugs, totaling 82% of the 82 deaths.  Coroners’ reports in more recent years, as reported in the media, concur.  Of the five festival deaths in NSW this summer, ecstasy has been implicated as the cause in all five, according to Professor Andrew Dawson, as reported recently by the Daily Telegraph.

We have also alerted our politicians to the fact that most MDMA deaths are not overdoses.  As DanceSafe[ii], an American harm reduction group has persuasively outlined:

Overdosing means taking a higher than appropriate dose of a medicine or a drug. In other words, it simply means taking too much or taking a “dose” that is “over” the proper therapeutic or recreational amount. The association of the word “overdose” with “drug-related death” is primarily reflective of heroin and opiate-related deaths, where the majority of fatalities may, in fact, result of overdosing. However, MDMA-related deaths are rarely the result of an overdose, and calling them overdoses is dangerous and negligent. It sends the message that “you will be okay as long as you don’t take too much,” which is simply not true. In the vast majority of cases of MDMA-related deaths, where no other drugs were found in the person’s bloodstream, the deceased had taken a dose within the normal range for appropriate therapeutic or recreational use.[iii]

Even the USA’s Drug Policy Alliance, with whom all Australian and New Zealand pill testing advocates are ideologically aligned, asserts the same[iv], stating that most deaths are not overdoses.  Also, on this same issue we point to evidence in the medical literature, such as the British Journal of Anaesthesia[v] which records that:

Typically, after oral ingestion (75–150 mg), desired effects begin within 1 h and last 4–6 h. Blood levels in asymptomatic users and those with serious side-effects are often similar, suggesting that adverse reactions are likely to relate to the circumstances in which the drug is taken, and that there may also be an idiosyncratic component. A number of fatalities have been reported with blood levels of 0.1–2.1 mg litre−1. However, a case of a deliberate overdose of MDMA in which the blood level reached 4.3 mg litre−1 with no more than mild sinus tachycardia and a degree of somnolence has been reported. Another analytically documented overdose resulted in a plasma MDMA of 7.72 mg litre−1, the highest recorded in a surviving patient, with just a ‘hangover’, tachycardia and hypertension.31 The highest level reported in association with multi-organ failure in a subsequent survivor was 7 mg litre−1.

Some observations regarding MDMA deaths are that many are from taking a single pill, and can be described as more akin to an idiosyncratic individual allergic reaction to MDMA, making first-time ecstasy use more akin to playing Russian roulette[vi].  A group of friends can all ingest the same amount but only one might die.[vii]  This was precisely the case with Anna Wood, Australia’s fist ecstasy death in 1995.  She took the same pill as her three friends, but only she died.  (Tony Wood, her father, can be contacted through Family First NZ)

We understand that it may seem somewhat confronting that Drug Free Australia is putting the onus of proof onto pill testing advocates themselves concerning the notion that party pill deaths are not mostly from using MDMA or are alternately from MDMA ‘overdoses’.  However, our reasoning is as follows . . .

    1. Advocates assert that pill testing is needed because impurities or unknown drugs in the pills cause deaths (which is rarely the case in our country and likely the same in yours)
    2. Advocates also assert that pill testing is needed because of unknown MDMA purity in party pills, suggesting that deaths are often from MDMA overdose (which is rarely the case in our country and likely the same in yours)
    3. The implicit conclusion from these first two pieces of misinformation is that pure MDMA is safe if ingested in normal recreational quantities (which is against all evidence)
    4. Drug Free Australia further contends that unless NZ advocates clearly and openly publicise that most deaths are tied to MDMA itself, they are personally responsible for the current spurious sense of security surrounding tested MDMA
    5. Drug Free Australia cannot think of a more sure way to widen demand for a dangerous substance via an entirely false sense of security for festival attendees, which will only cause an accelerated escalation in deaths.

We would like to see every NZ parliamentarian ask advocates for a list of names from coroners’ reports of all those deceased after taking party pills where the fatal impurity or other illicit drug in the pills was nominated by the Coroner.  For those found by the Coroner to have overdosed, a list containing the name of the deceased and the report’s estimate of the amount of MDMA ingested.  We suggest the New Zealand lists will be very short, and the list of MDMA deaths long.

I might just mention that Drug Free Australia does recognise that there have been three deaths here in Melbourne in January 2017 from party pills which were due to the drugs 4-FA and 25C-NBOMe.  These drugs were found in purported ecstasy pills, nevertheless these drugs would not have been identified by current pill testing equipment.[viii]  Drug Free Australia also asserts that most GHB overdoses are by users who know they are taking GHB, as was the case in Melbourne, for example, in February 2017.[ix]

Drug Free Australia urges a proactive political response from New Zealand Parliamentarians, which will save the lives of many of your young citizens.

Yours faithfully

 

Major Brian Watters AO [x]
President, Drug Free Australia
Chairman, Prime Minister’s Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) 1998-2005
Australia’s representative to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 2004-2012

Letter provided to Family First NZ to pass on to Members of Parliament.

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19604654 
[ii] https://dancesafe.org/ 
[iii] https://dancesafe.org/mdma-related-deaths-stop-calling-them-overdoses/ 
[iv] https://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/DPA_Fact_Sheet_MDMA.PDF 
[v]  https://academic.oup.com/bja/article/96/6/678/326917 
[vi] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1365-2044.1993.tb06813.x 
[vii] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/22/friends-out-ecstasy-deaths-highest-level-pills 
[viii] https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/3dp5pk/leaked-police-memo-reveals-what-was-in-melbournes-deadly-batch-of-mdma 
[ix] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-19/electric-parade-festival-more-than-20-overdose-hospital/8283828 
[x] https://www.drugfree.org.au/index.php/major-brian-watters-ao-international-liaison-officer.html

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Pill testing is a furphy that can only spread drug usage

Jan 30, 2019 01:39 pm

Pill Testing: Arguments For and Against
Catholic Weekly 24 January 2019
Family First Comment: “Advising a potentially allergic user to take only half a 100 per cent pure MDMA pill won’t help anymore than eating half a peanut instead of the whole will stop anaphylactic shock for those allergic to peanuts. With that knowledge, the results of this pill testing push will be frightening. What better way is there to broaden the pool of prospective drug users than to suggest pill testing makes ecstasy use safer? Expect an accelerating number of deaths from this craven misinformation… Why aren’t the pill testing promoters telling the truth about ecstasy, saying pill testing is about safety when it’s not? Maybe there’s something to hide, like another agenda.”

Every death from a party pill in Australia has a toxicology analysis of what caused the death in the coroner’s report, so there are no mysteries about what is causing these deaths.

But here is the appalling news – the cause is very different from what you are hearing from pill testing proponents and from an Australian media that has largely failed its due diligence on this story.

The only Australian study on an extensive number of ecstasy-related deaths looked at 82 coroners’ reports from between 2001 and 2005. First, that is a lot of under-reported ecstasy deaths in five years. Second, 23 per cent of those deaths were caused solely by the MDMA in the pill. Another 59 per cent were caused by MDMA when used with other legal and illegal drugs.

Conclusion? Eighty two per cent of the 82 deaths reviewed were directly attributed to MDMA. Ecstasy is the killer. Third, none of these 82 deaths were from impurities or other unknown drugs in the pills. And recent coroners’ reports concur. The Daily Telegraph reported on 15 January that Professor Dawson had indicated MDMA was implicated in early toxicology tests on four recent NSW deaths.

The other evidence-free assertion we keep hearing is that many deaths are from MDMA ‘overdoses’. The truth is that MDMA overdoses are rare, with most deaths from a single pill or from MDMA ingestion within the normal range of recreational use.

Even Harm Reduction Australia’s senior organisation, the US Drug Policy Alliance, says ecstasy overdoses are rare. So why does HRA keep promoting this dangerous myth that misleads the public into thinking the MDMA purity of a single pill needs quantifying?

Why, then, are people dying? The reality is that most deaths outside polydrug use are due to something akin to an individual allergic reaction to MDMA. In 1995, Anna Wood took the same tablet as five other friends, but she was the one that died.

So, advising a potentially allergic user to take only half a 100 per cent pure MDMA pill won’t help anymore than eating half a peanut instead of the whole will stop anaphylactic shock for those allergic to peanuts.

With that knowledge, the results of this pill testing push will be frightening. What better way is there to broaden the pool of prospective drug users than to suggest pill testing makes ecstasy use safer? Expect an accelerating number of deaths from this craven misinformation.

There are practical issues too. John Lewis, a forensic scientist at UTS, says pill testing equipment will never provide safety because scrapings from a pill wrongly assume that contained substances are uniformly distributed.

Additionally, the three deaths in Melbourne where purported ecstasy pills contained 4-FA and 25C-NBOMe require equipment so sophisticated that police sent samples to Spain for verification. Also, pill testing won’t reduce drug use and its risks as is claimed.

A festival-goer with a tested ‘dangerous’ pill will simply ask friends next time where the ‘safe’ MDMA ones are purchased.

Why aren’t the pill testing promoters telling the truth about ecstasy, saying pill testing is about safety when it’s not? Maybe there’s something to hide, like another agenda.

Of course, only they know their own motives.

Gary Christian is a specialist researcher in AOD and Community Health for Drug Free Australia.
READ MORE: https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/pill-testing-arguments-for-and-against/
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Are the negative health impacts of cannabis being drowned out?

Jan 30, 2019 01:02 pm

Radio NZ 23 January 2019
Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson says the science that points to long term issues related to pot use is getting drowned out by the push to legalize use around the world. He analyses international studies, including a lot of research done here in New Zealand, and presents case studies that indicate that using marijuana is dangerous when it comes to brain development and mental health. He makes his case in a new book called Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence.

AUDIO: https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2018679415/are-the-negative-health-impacts-of-cannabis-being-drowned-out

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Medsafe investigating claims on cannabis billboard

Jan 30, 2019 12:00 pm

Stuff co.nz 18 December 2019
Family First Comment“A spokesman for Medsafe, the regulator for medicines and medical devices,​ said it was not correct to say that all cannabis is medicine.”
Exactly.
Read our summary
www.SayNopeToDope.org.nz/medicinal

Medsafe is “looking into” New Zealand’s first cannabis advertising campaign.

The Advertising Standards Authority received several complaints this week after a billboard advertising cannabis as medicine was erected on Auckland’s Anzac Ave.

Helius Therapeutics, a licensed medicinal cannabis company, launched the billboards following last week’s legalisation of medicinal cannabis manufacture, to “rebrand” cannabis.

A spokesman for Medsafe, the regulator for medicines and medical devices,​ said it was not correct to say that all cannabis is medicine.

“Sativex is the only cannabinoid product approved by Medsafe in New Zealand…Medsafe is aware of this campaign and is looking into it.”
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/109435600/medsafe-investigating-claims-on-cannabis-billboard

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Why parenting can’t be outsourced to a pill tester

Jan 30, 2019 11:15 am

Sydney Morning Herald 3 January 2019
Family First Comment: Excellent commentary – and totally relevant to NZ setting…
“As parents, we spend so much of our time trying to invest our values into our children and then what happens? A politician comes along, seeking to curry favour with Greens’ supporters and effectively says “it’s OK to take drugs if they have been tested.” Is that really the message you want to give your child or grandchild ? That there are no dramatic consequences from taking illicit substances, because a government will take responsibility for your decisions from this point.”

It starts with that first tantrum (theirs not ours) and progresses to life lessons like crossing the road safely, being kind to others, respecting elders and developing a strong work ethic.

But none is more important than our words and actions around drugs and alcohol, and the consequences that follow from the decisions our children will one day have the freedom to make.

That’s why I couldn’t believe my ears last week when I heard the new opposition leader Michael Daley stating that NSW Labor would consider allowing the testing of drugs at music festivals.

As parents, we spend so much of our time trying to invest our values into our children and then what happens?

A politician like Mr Daley comes along, seeking to curry favour with inner-Sydney Greens’ supporters and effectively says “it’s OK to take drugs if they have been tested.” Is that really the message you want to give your child or grandchild ?

That there are no dramatic consequences from taking illicit substances, because a Labor government will take responsibility for your decisions from this point.
READ MORE: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/why-parenting-can-t-be-outsourced-to-a-pill-tester-20190103-p50pck.html

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Woman who ‘changed’ race claims her babies will be born black

Jan 30, 2019 10:35 am

News.com.au 22 January 2019
Family First Comment:  Based on the justification for choosing your gender, why not choose your race as well. 
#equality

A model who was born a white woman, but now identifies as black after tanning injections changed her skin colour shared bizarre claims about her future children.

A white glamour model who claims to have “changed” race after having a series of tanning injections has left people stunned with her latest revelation.

German model Martina Big, 30, who has been taking melanin injections for two years and now “identifies as a black woman”, appeared on British TV yesterday with her new husband Michael where she claimed the pair would be able to conceive a black child together.

Speaking about her “transformation”, she said a doctor has told her she’ll be able to birth black children, though no medical explanation was given.

“My children will be black. We are not having plans, but I am discussing with my doctor to see if my body is okay, will I be able to breastfeed, what the baby will look like,” she told the two shocked hosts.

When quizzed on how that would be “genetically possible”, she claimed any future baby she has would be a mix of her and her white husband.
READ MORE: https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/wtf/woman-who-changed-race-claims-her-babies-will-be-born-black/news-story/7fa959901ce448aa992971cd1d5ce9d6
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