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A leading youth development organisation has welcomed government moves to
restrict the sale of the party pill ingredient, DMAA,
Youthline has also called for party pills to be tested for their long term
impact, noting that no-one is sure, as yet, over what the long term
consequences of usage might be.
Over the weekend, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne, announced that
dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, is to be scheduled as a restricted substance
under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The scheduling will stop DMAA being sold to young people under the age of
eighteen and will also prevent the substance being promoted through
advertising or sold where alcohol can be purchased. The move follows the
banning in April last year of the chemical compound BZP. DMAA was
introduced by party pill manufacturers to replace BZP.
"The fact is that no-one is yet sure of the long term consequences of using
DMAA and similar substances, which are relatively new and untested. There
are grounds for concern over the effect they might have on the brains of
young people, which, even at the age of eighteen, are still developing.
"Similarly disquieting is the evidence of harmful consequences when these
pills are not used as directed. And there are obvious concerns about the
combined use of party pills with alcohol or other intoxicants. So there is
a good case for both regulation and testing," says Youthline's CEO, Stephen
"However, decisions on health policy should be based on harm minimisation.
"Outright prohibition of party pills would not minimise harm, as some young
people would continue to use them and would be exposed to compounds
developed illegally, without guarantees over ingredients or production
"Scheduling DMAA as a restricted substance more or less gets the mixture
right. We would, however, also like to see more emphasis not just on
testing for long term impact but on educating users about safer use and the
dangers of mixing drugs. Retailer education also needs to be improved.
"Above all, the ban on sales to under-eighteens needs to be firmly enforced.
"In addition, sales of party pills should be limited to specialist retailers
who do not operate near schools and who are not open for business at times
when schools are opening or closing," he says.
Stephen Bell questions the view that party pills might provide a gateway to
the use of illegal drugs. He says there is very little evidence to support
this proposition. Nor is there a great deal of evidence in favour of the
counter-proposition, that use of party pills helps people wean themselves
off illegal drugs.
He also suggests that one way of encouraging young people to stop using
party pills and other intoxicants, is to provide better adult role models.
"Young people model their behaviour on the example set by their parents and
the wider society, as well as on that of their peers. In New Zealand, we
behave as if intoxication is a necessary part of fun, and a rite of passage.
Hence, the widespread use of both legal intoxicants, such as alcohol, and
illegal ones, such as marijuana.
"Perhaps there would be less pill-popping, if we got use to the idea that
you can enjoy yourself without intoxication. As things stand, we appear to
be telling young people to 'do as I say, not as I do,' " he adds.
Founded in 1970, Youthline helps young people to reach their potential and
provides them with a wide range of support and leadership opportunities.