A Wellington emergency doctor says the legalisation of pure MDMA - the main ingredient in recreational drug ecstasy, which has euphoric effects - should be considered to protect users from other, more dangerous substances.
Dr Paul Quigley, an emergency medicine specialist and clinical toxicologist at Wellington Hospital, said regulating a drug like MDMA - 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine - could reduce the risk of people ordering unknown substances online, which he called "outright dangerous".
Dr Quigley told Radio New Zealand National that new drugs with "novel synthetic agents" that were trying to replace ecstasy and MDMA had unknown side effects. They were being bought online, mostly by people in their mid-20s, he said.
"These people are coming in [to hospital] hallucinating, they've got high blood pressure, they're delirious, they need to be held down by four or five security guards, and we've got no control over this."
The drugs changed rapidly, making it difficult for police and customs to stop them from getting into the country, but controlling a substance like MDMA could discourage people from using less safe options and the Psychoactive Substances Act had the potential to decide whether it was safe, Dr Quigley said.
"We could assess whether it's safe, we could regulate it, we could earn income off it, we could restrict it ... But at least it could be controlled."
Dr Quigley said MDMA had been around for about 30 years and was a prescription medicine used in the 1970s for psychiatric purposes - so it had been clinically tested on people.
He said the safety profile of the drug was fairly good - though it could still cause harm, particularly to those predisposed to mental conditions.
It was "not particularly" addictive, he said, and was not associated with violence.
He said ecstasy bought on the street did not necessarily contain MDMA, and he called street drugs "outright dangerous".
Other ways of controlling such drugs seemed to be failing, Dr Quigley said.
Last week Dr Quigley told Public Address' Russell Brown that there was growing evidence that MDMA provided a "safe form of intoxication".
He said drug dealers were mixing highly stimulating hallucinogenic drugs that could cause abnormally fast heart rate and high blood pressure with benzodiazepines ("downers"), which were highly addictive.
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told stuff.co.nz he would discuss the matter with Dr Quigley.