Minister backs ‘half-a-pill’ student campaign

Drugs minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has backed a harm reduction campaign which advises students it is less risky to take half an ecstasy tablet than a full one and never to mix drugs.

The minister of state said the campaign was dealing with the “reality” of young people’s lives.

The What’s In the Pill? initiative is run by the students unions of Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and Dublin Institute of Technology, along with the Ana Liffey Drug Project.

A campaign poster advises students that it is “always safest not to take unknown or illicit drugs at all” — but that if they do take a pill:

  • It is less risky to take half a pill “although smaller doses can also be dangerous”;
  • If you don’t come up (feel the effects) as quickly as expected don’t assume the pills are dud. Wait two hours as some drugs take longer;
  • Never double drop (take two pills at once);
  • Never mix your drugs (including alcohol) as they can interact dangerously;
  • If dancing, rehydrate gradually with water or isotonic drinks and take breaks.

“This campaign is part of a wider conversation about the reality of drugs,” said Mr Ó Ríordáin at the launch. “You are dealing with reality and dealing with young people where they are.”

Conor Clancy, welfare officer at TCD, said that the campaign “recognises that drug use is happening”, but provides factual information which could “save lives and prevent harm”.

Clare O’Connor, UCD welfare officer, said: “It’s always safest not to take, but some students will and we are trying to look after those.”

And DIT welfare officer Lysette Golden said “educating people saves lives” and that they hoped to “break the silence” on the issue.

Tony Duffin of Ana Liffey Drug Project said they don’t want people to take risks, but if they do they wanted them “to be careful”, as there have been hospitalisations and deaths from taking pills.

The campaign refers to a number of deaths in 2014 related to PMMA, an amphetamine contained in tablets sold as ecstasy.

There have also been deaths involving pure ecstasy (MDMA), including Ana Hick, aged 18, who died at a Dublin nightclub last May.

There have been a few deaths over the last 25 years of users dying after taking half a tablet — often caused by an individual susceptibility to ecstasy chemicals.

The new campaign is similar to initiatives in Dublin in the 1990s, which also trained nightclub staff.


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