Australia plans to curb use

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The Independent Online
Sydney (Reuter) - Australia is formulating a plan to crack down on the growing use of ecstasy, which has claimed five lives in the past year, with the latest death last week.

Officials said although the number of deaths was small compared with those from heroin or alcohol, there was a need for more research. "Ecstasy has been widely available since 1988 in Australia and in seven years we had no deaths at all but in the past year we have had five," said Paul Dillon, of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. "All of a sudden this has happened and we need to find out why." A survey indicated 3 per cent of the population had tried ecstasy.

The most recent victim was a social worker, Jacqueline Louch, 37, who died in Adelaide after taking one tablet. But the death that drew most attention was that of a Sydney schoolgirl, Anna Wood, 15, who went into a coma in October after taking ecstasy at a party; she died two days later. Her death prompted a ban by New South Wales on dance promoters using coded images in advertisements for parties with drugs available.

Ecstasy in Australia, which sells for about 60 Australian dollar (pounds 30) a tablet, is mainly smuggled from Amsterdam and London, with only a few backyard chemists making it.