'Black market' drug warning

Students having to be hospitalised after taking ''bad drugs'' has prompted a call for regulation.

Paramedics were called to a bar on Monday night, after concerns four patrons appeared ''grossly intoxicated'', Dunedin alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Ian Paulin said.

''On closer examination it appears they were having drug issues and they were taken via ambulance to the emergency department,'' he said.

Sgt Paulin could not confirm the drug was MDMA, known by the street name ecstasy, as he was yet to talk to those affected.

''[There] seems to be some sort of bad drugs around,'' Sgt Paulin said.

He had a simple message for drug users.

''If you are taking something and you don't know where it is from and it has potential to do some serious harm to you ... would you inject or consume something that could potentially kill you?''Drug Foundation executive Ross Bell said when people bought ''ecstasy'' in New Zealand it often contained no MDMA.

''There is a global shortage of MDMA and manufacturers have realised it is cheaper to cook unknown or new substances in their labs.''

Recent ''ecstasy'' tablets seized by police were tested and found to contain BZP, caffeine, methamphetamine and mephedrone.

''We need to have a regulated market where we don't just rely on 'buyer beware'.''

With the black market, ''you would never know what you were buying off the street'', Mr Bell said.

''Not so long ago we had a legal market for psychoactive substances and we knew who was selling them, what was in them, they had health warnings but Parliament chose to stop that approach and leave it up to the black market. We are letting the black market rule and these are the obvious consequences.''

The Otago University Students' Association reminded people ''partying slightly outside of the law'' to be responsible, and look after their friends.

- hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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