Committee calls for ban on 'party pills'

The Government has been advised to outlaw the sale of "party pills" by an expert committee which has been studying their dangers.

The pills can be legally purchased by those over 18, but critics say their main active ingredient benzylpiperazine (BZP) is dangerous and pill doses are often far higher than recommended, leading to significant potential harm.

A Cabinet committee is looking at whether BZP and related substances commonly found in party pills should be banned or further restricted.

Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton today said he was still considering the official advice from the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD), but had taken the step of releasing it so people were aware of the pills' dangers.

Mr Anderton, the Minister in charge of drug policy, said considering the advice was the first step he was required to make in taking any statutory decision.

He said one trial had shown frequent and severe side effects - including seizures - from the drug's use, suggesting the potential for serious harm for some users, even at relatively low doses.

"While there have been on recorded deaths attributed solely to the use of BZP, we know that severe adverse effects from the use of 'party pills' occur unpredictably.

"The expert committee was concerned that the seizures which have been recorded have the potential to kill."

The committee had recommended sale and possession of BZP be outlawed. The drug should be given a similar classification to cannabis.

But Mr Anderton said there were several legal steps he had to take before he could make a final decision on whether to recommend a ban on BZP.

They included seeking further information and advice, consulting fully with other government agencies and seeking public and industry views.

He aimed to conclude consultation by March 2007.

The National Party and New Zealand First have accused the Government of dragging its feet on the issue.

- NZPA

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