College students warned about drug use

New campaign aims to reduce harm
  • Deborah Condon

College students who take or are considering taking illicit drugs are being urged to think about what is actually in the pills they are consuming.

A new campaign, ‘What's in the Pill?' has been launched by the Ana Liffey Drug Project and three universities - DIT, UCD and Trinity College Dublin.

This marks the first time that universities and a drug project have worked together to develop a drug-related resource for students. The campaign aims to get students thinking about drug use, particularly party drugs like ecstasy.

"With this campaign, we're acknowledging that recreational drug use does happen around Ireland and we're trying to put in place a harm reduction strategy in that context. We need to engage people taking drugs with information like this, which could help prevent loss of life," explained UCD welfare officer, Claire O'Connor.

The campaign is focusing on harm reduction information related to pill usage.

In 2013 and 2014, a number of deaths were reported across Europe that were related to PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine) and PMMA (paramethoxymethamphetamine), which are stimulants with hallucinogenic effects that are similar to ecstasy. However, the active ingredient in ecstasy is MDMA. PMA and PMMA are more poisonous and can kill at lower doses than MDMA.

The effects tend to feel similar but less euphoric. This can lead to people taking more of these drugs to achieve the same effect, but larger doses can lead to coma and death.

"It's not possible to tell what's in a pill by sight, smell or taste. While PMA and PMMA are widely known substances which are commonly found in what is sold as ecstasy, there are many others which are not so well known.

"It was great to work with the universities on what is a pragmatic and helpful resource. Hopefully, it will help many students to make safer decisions," commented Ana Liffey Drug Project director, Tony Duffin.

As part of the campaign, posters and resource sheets will be distributed to the three colleges. It will also be promoted on social media via the website. To download the posters and factsheet, click here


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