Discussing MDMA

Discussing MDMA

We all want to reduce drug-related harm and ensure young people don’t take unnecessary risks. But decades of research shows fear isn’t an effective way to do this.

This week, Newscorp Australia released The Ripple Effect, a series of articles and accompanying videos about party drugs, aimed at parents of young people.

Rather than drawing on the science about reducing harm, the series overstates the nation’s drug problem and the likelihood of problems from taking MDMA (ecstasy). And it’s likely to scare the wits out of parents of teens.

So, what do parents really need to know about party drugs?

Most young people don’t use drugs

Illicit drug use among teens is low and has been in decline for nearly a decade.

Although Australians overall have a relatively high rate of MDMA use compared to similar countries, only a small proportion of teenagers (around 3%) and young adults (7%) have used MDMA in the last year. Among high school students, the overwhelming majority (94%) have never tried MDMA.

Normalising the idea that drug use isn’t that common is a key prevention strategy in drug education. If young people think “everyone” is using drugs, they are more likely to want to do it too.

Scare tactics don’t work

As the Ripple Effect notes, NSW Health decided to drop a “shock campaign” on MDMA. The evidence shows scare tactics don’t help reduce young people’s drug use.

Fatal overdoses are relatively rare. Most people who use party drugs have no adverse consequences. So when young people see messages suggesting all drug use is dangerous, they know it’s not ...

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