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Prevention research evaluation report

Number 16 December 2005

may involve the introduction of a prevention program

within schools as part of the formal educational

curriculum. Unlike mass media campaigns, which are

indirect and leave space for uncertainty, a school

prevention program could provide students with

accurate information while the presenters would

be able to attend to their questions and clarify

issues raised. In addition, wider community based

prevention programs, outside of the school context,

should be developed with the aim of targeting high

school students who experiment with ecstasy.

As previous research within the drug and alcohol

domain suggests, mass media interventions play

an important role in achieving behavioural change

and, as such, should not be ignored when targeting

ecstasy users (or potential users). If choosing to

employ mass media campaigns, targeted campaigns

are more effective than those adopting a blanket

approach. Thus, campaign designers should tailor

campaign messages to a specific population (for

example, potential users or recreational users or

those who use ecstasy excessively). Furthermore,

to increase their effectiveness, such media

interventions should be backed up by community

based programs, and any initiative needs to be pretested

in order to effectively contribute to the huge

gaps in this field.

As is evident in this report, many young people

use ecstasy without specific knowledge regarding

how to reduce the harms associated with this

drug use. In this light, it is likely that a range of

stratified and carefully targeted prevention programs

will be needed. Including multiple integrated

components delivered across various social settings,

these prevention programs will need to target

different users in different stages of use, such as

experimental and recreational users or those who

regularly “binge” on ecstasy, with the primary aim

of reducing harm and with the secondary aim of

preventing future use. In these instances, different

messages should be formed to target each group.

In addition, in order to improve the quality of

the intervention, there is a vital need to better

understand users’ perceptions, values and needs.

Thus, more qualitative research is needed. This

may include in-depth interviews and focus group

methods.

Ecstasy specific, harm-reduction strategies also have

the potential to address users’ issues. Considering

the practitioners’ views in isolation, it appears

that this cohort is in favour of the harm-reduction

approach. While some ecstasy related harmreduction

organisations already exist in Australia,

many of them are unofficial and thus lack the

funding to provide better services to their clients.

Furthermore, to date, very little is known regarding

the effectiveness of such programs. However, given

the increasing number of people using ecstasy and

related drugs (for example, GHB, ketamine and

Rohypnol), and the near-zero prevention and harmreduction

programs currently available, it is vital to

conduct evaluations and to assess the effectiveness

of ecstasy related harm-reduction programs.

Furthermore, it is essential that the most effective

programs be implemented. Policy makers and the

wider society should bear in mind the massive

number of ecstasy users nationally, and that the

absence of planned prevention and harm reduction

strategies, simply means more harm.

References

Agar MH & Reisinger HS 2003 “Going for the global:

The case of ecstasy”, Human Organization 62:1,

pp. 1–11

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)

2004 The 2004 National Drug Strategy Household

Survey, First Results Cat. No. PHE-57, Canberra:

AIHW

Andreu V, Mas A & Brugura M 1998 “Ecstasy:

A common cause of severe acute hepatotoxicity”,

Journal of Hepatology 27, pp. 394–97

Anleu SLR 1999 Deviance, conformity and control,

3rd edn, London: Prentice Hall

Baggott M 2002 “Preventing problems in ecstasy

users: Reduce use to reduce harm”, Journal of

Psychoactive Drugs 34, pp. 145–62

Benschop A, Rabes M & Korf D 2002 Pill testing—

ecstasy and prevention. A scientific evaluation

in three European cities, Amsterdam: Rozenberg

Publishers

Bhattachary SJ & Powell JH 2001 “Recreational use

of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)

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