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Young people are increasingly turning to purer forms of party drugs that are stronger and potentially more harmful, a new report on Australian drug trends has revealed.

Findings released on Monday by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) show the percentage of people using ecstasy in crystal or capsule form has hit record levels over the past decade.

Ecstasy crystals and capsules often contain a higher purity of the drug, and are reportedly stronger than ecstasy pills, the researchers said

Dr Amy Peacock, program lead for drug trends at NDARC, cautioned that the findings do not represent drug use in the general population but the trends observed in this recent study are a cause for concern.

“Use of higher-purity stimulants can increase the risk of experiencing acute and long-term negative health effects,” Dr Peacock said.

The researchers also found an overwhelming majority of users were combining ecstasy and other stimulants with a cocktail of other drugs, including cannabis and LSD.

“Nine in 10 participants reported the last time that they used an illicit stimulant that they’d also used cannabis, some depressants such as alcohol, they might have used hallucinogens like LSD, or a dissociative [painkillers such as ketamine],” Dr Peacock said.

“That combination of substances can be quite risky in terms of the likelihood of experiencing an adverse health event.”

Ketamine is a prescription medicine that is used by doctors and vets as an anaesthetic or painkiller. Known as ‘K’ or ‘Special K’, the substance is illegally used to induce a trance-like state.

When combined with other substances, especially alcohol or anti-anxiety medicines, the unpredictable drug can affect breathing or stop it altogether.

Cocaine use has also increased to record levels in the past decade, from 23 per cent in 2003 to 59 per cent in 2018.

Another NDARC study sample, involving 910 illicit drug users, found crystal methamphetamine use is also higher in 2018. Half of the survey respondents reported using meth on a weekly or more frequent basis.

Higher purity’ party drugs on the rise among young people

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