Tripme tripping up

The Tripme website says it aims to inform and educate on drug use. In some respects this is true, but by prominently promoting drugs – the use of and purchase of through advertising – it contradicts those aims, and in some respects is grossly misleading.

In reality Tripme is as it appears at first glance, a site promoting drug use. And it is dishonest about this.

From the Trip Me Rules/Disclaimer/Terms & Conditions page:

Tripme (www.tripme.co.nz) is an international website and message board that educates the public about responsible drug use by promoting free discussion. We advocate harm reduction and attempt to eliminate misinformation.

That sounds fine.

Tripme does not condone or condemn the use of illegal drugs. Tripme is a place for people to ask questions and educate themselves about drugs so they can make more informed decisions regarding their personal use. Other programs that advocate complete abstinence have had limited success, so Tripme anticipates that people will continue to use illegal drugs regardless of the potential health or legal consequences. We want to encourage people to take personal responsibility for the choices they make regarding their drug consumption.

And that seems be a very sensible and responsible approach.

Beyond harm reduction, Tripme also seeks to educate the public about drugs by summarizing whatever information is known about a subject. Tripme aims to deliver accurate information in an easy to understand manner that emphasizes safety. We also try to eliminate misinformation whether it exaggerates or understates the danger. If facts are unavailable, then honest anecdotal stories can provide useful information so people have an idea of what to expect.

Since Tripme seeks to reach the widest possible audience, we take a balanced approach that allows the discussion of both the positive and negative aspects of drug use. We believe that education and harm reduction are more effective than using scare tactics or exaggerating negative claims. Anyone looking through our site will be able to find examples of irresponsible behavior, but we believe it does not glorify recklessness but instead reinforces the idea that people need to be more cautious.

Great.

But there are a couple of major flaws tripping the website up.

Free speech

The opening paragraph of their Rules page…

Tripme…educates the public about responsible drug use by promoting free discussion.

…highlighted in Forum Rules…

Speak your mind here at Tripme. Make use of the right to free speech.

…but…

By viewing Tripme.co.nz you agree that you are not an investigator, reporter, member of any National or International government agencies or Police force that intends to disrupt the community efforts at harm minimization and drug safety.

If you do not totally agree with the above statement you MUST leave this website now.

That seems to be uttering hypocrisy. Free speech and information allowed, but only if you’re on their side.

Funding and advertising

Tripme is funded by private donations and maintained by a team of volunteers.

And…

This website is for educational and informational purposes only.

That is extremely dishonest.

The banner for the Tripme website and prominent animated advertsing on the website links to a drug sales website:

TOP QUALITY LEGAL HIGHS AND SYNTHETIC CANNABIS IN NEW ZEALAND

And pill ‘reviews’ have multiple links directly to sales sites of those pills:

Party Pill Review: Hypnotic

Okay, this is my first time on a pill with Glaucine. Glaucine is a yellow horned poppy extract said to be very mildly psychedelic and quite sedative. I dropped two of these hypnotics (which is the recommended dose for a bigger person).

Starts off more relaxed, with some stimulation. Little urge to do anything. As it first starts, I’m thinking, this is nice, smooth relaxed, and have high hopes this is smoother feeling.

As it kicks in more fully, I feel kinda spacey, waves of relaxation and stimulation, quite strong and light headed….Kinda giddy relaxed feeling hit me like a wall, couldn’t keep writing the reveiw for a bit, mangled, spacey, sedated & had to just sit! So the come up is very quick…

Click Here to Buy Online or …

Etc, to the end of the review…

You can Buy Hypnotic Party Pill Online from our Sponsor xxx

(I’ve removed the links because I’m not going to assist advertising).

It’s very obvious that Tripme is not just a drug education site funded by donations. It has prominent and direct links to drug sellers and admits being sponsored by commercial operations.

Tripme appears to be doing some things very well and responsibly, including:

  • Many of their stated aims are laudable
  • Age restriction (although it’s not prominent)
  • Warnings about the affect of drugs on young people
  • Forums on addiction and depression support

But Tripme is promoting the use of drugs by prominently advertising them. This severely compromises the site’s stated aims of education and balanced information.

 

Mathers, Dunne, party pills and animal testing

In Question Time today Mojo Mathers asked Peter Dunne about animal testing and party pills. This clarifies the issue.

In The House video: 4.12.12 – Question 11: Mojo Mathers to the Associate Minister of Health

11. Drugs, Psychoactive—Animal Testing

[Sitting date: 04 December 2012. Volume:686;Page:12. Text is subject to correction.]

11. MOJO MATHERS (Green) to the Associate Minister of Health: Other than the LD50 test, will he rule out other animal tests for the pending psychoactive substances testing regime?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health) : With regard to psychoactive substances, I have directed the Ministry of Health to develop a regulatory regime consistent with international best practice and avoiding animal testing wherever possible. The standards for approval for psychoactive substances will be set by an independent expert committee to be established early next year.

Mojo Mathers: Why is there not a single non-animal testing option included in the Ministry of Health’s testing regime recommendation paper dated March 2012?

Hon PETER DUNNE: There have been a number of alternative options proposed. They are all to be considered by the expert committee. I should make the point that the material that was the subject of the release last week, which got the weekend publicity, was neither ministry advice nor Government policy. They were comments contained in a report from an independent toxicologist.

Mojo Mathers: How does he reconcile that omission with the purpose set out in Part 6 of the Animal Welfare Act to “replace animals as subjects for research, and testing by substituting where appropriate, non-sentient or non-living alternatives:”?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I am not attempting to reconcile the two statements for this reason. The material that the member refers to, which was the basis of the publicity at the weekend, was neither official advice to the Ministry of Health nor a statement of Government policy, but a statement by an independent toxicologist. The expert committee that I referred to in my original answer, in developing the standards for approval, will obviously be guided by all relevant pieces of legislation, including the legislation to which the member has referred.

Mojo Mathers: I seek leave to table the Ministry of Health report from March 2012, which outlines the proposed safety testing regime and it is called Regulations governing the control of novel psychoactive drugs defining parameters associated with toxicity.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

  • document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Mojo Mathers: So will he now commission a report into non-animal options for safety testing of new recreational drugs?

Hon PETER DUNNE: Can I repeat for the member’s benefit my original answer. I have directed the Ministry of Health in developing the regulatory regime consistent with international best practice to look at avoiding animal testing wherever possible. As I said earlier, the precise regime will be developed by the independent expert committee, which will be established early next year.

Mojo Mathers on party pills and animal testing

Mojo Mathers has responded to emailed questions about the Green position on party pills and animal testing.

Do you think party pills should be proven safe before going on the market?

Yes, absolutely. We can’t have unsafe products on the shelf. But it’s obvious that the public are appalled to know that animals are to be subjected to considerable suffering to get these party drugs to market.

Do you think it’s more important to protect animals than allow the sale of party pills?

Yes, I do. But I really feel that the key issue is that there are non-animal options for safety testing and that all of Government needs to be aware that animal testing is a last resort, not a first one as was the case before we made this issue public. Dogs and other animals shouldn’t be made to suffer just so that we can get legal highs on store shelves.

Is some level of animal testing acceptable? If not and it rules out party pills because they can’t be adequately tested are you comfortable with this?

There are some situations where animal testing is required, but this is only in cases where it is endeavoured that no animal suffers as a result, and the study can show the potential for overwhelming benefit to animals or humans. Having every available party pill on the shelf is not an overwhelming benefit.

Please advise if they are your own views or official Green position.

These are both my views and the views of the Green Party.

You can see more about Green party policy here http://www.greens.org.nz/policysummary/animal-welfare-policy-summary

 

Legalising synthetic highs

Yesterday Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced details of the permanent psychoactive substances regime. It should take effect by August 2013.

Safe as possible

It will require drug manufacters and distributors to apply for approval and prove reasonable safety before new drugs can be sold.

Criminal sellers, non-criminal users

  • Up to eight years in prison for people found to be manufacturing or selling banned substances (criminal offence)
  • A $300 fine for personal possession of an unapproved product (non-criminal offence).

Under the new rules:

  • Legal high manufacturers will face estimated $180,000 application fees plus $1 million to $2 million in testing costs for each product
  • There will be a minimum purchase age of 18 for products
  • Point-of-sale advertising only, labelling and packaging requirements
  • Dairies will be barred from selling the products.

Dunne said he made “no apologies for setting the bar high on public safety”.

The regime would be “based on reversing the onus of proof so those who profit from these products will have to prove they are as safe as is possible for psychoactive substances” and would mean the Government would “no longer play the cat-and-mouse game of constantly chasing down substances after they are on the market”.

Legal high measures ‘right balance’ for industry – Bowden

Legal high entrepreneur Matt Bowden says the Government has made the right move towards restricting regulation for manufacturing the drugs.

Bowden, developer of the now illegal synthetic cannabis Kronic, said Dunne had “struck the right balance” with the new regulations.

“If you set the laws too tight, you empower the black market and you end up with more dangerous drugs.

“If you have the laws too loose, you end up with drugs out there with no controls over them.”

Currently classified drugs such as cannabis won’t be affected by this.

Today’s ODT editorial Reversing the onus of proof looks at recent problems with drugs, specifically K2. This is what the proposed legislation is addressing.

On Monday, four University of Otago flatmates said they would never use K2 again after 10 people playing games at their flat tried it for the first time. After reportedly only one puff of the product, several of the group vomited, some reported hallucinations, police were called and two visiting men were hospitalised temporarily after becoming aggressive and distressed.

“I felt like I was in another world. I thought I was going to be like that forever. It shouldn’t be legal,” one of the flatmates said.

The incident came only a week after an 18-year old female, who had been using K2 for a year, contacted this newspaper to warn about its dangers following a manic episode in which she battered her own face and was also hospitalised.

“I was possessed by a demon … I started screaming so loudly that I did not even recognise my own voice … this is is horrendous stuff,” the teenager said.

Police said they were witnessing an increase in incidents involving the product. Users were behaving erratically, aggressively and out of character and police warned people could not only face serious charges for any crimes committed while under its influence, but were potentially “putting their lives at risk” by smoking K2.

“It shouldn’t be legal” may be fair comment but maybe they shouldn’t be using drugs that already have a reputation for risking adverse reactions.

And when new legislation comes into effect next year unsafe drugs shouldn’t be legal.

Dunne: drug law reversing onus of proof on way

Media Release

Cabinet has agreed key details of new psychoactive substances drug legislation that will require distributors and producers of party pills and other legal highs to prove they are safe before they can sell them, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced today.

“As promised, we are reversing the onus of proof. If they cannot prove that a product is safe, then it is not going anywhere near the marketplace,” Mr Dunne said.

“The legislation will be introduced to Parliament later this year and be in force by around the middle of next year.

‘In the meantime, the Temporary Class Drug Notices – the holding measure we have successfully put in place – will be rolled over as required so there is no window of opportunity for any banned substances to come back on the market before the permanent law comes in,” he said.

 “The new law means the game of ‘catch up’ with the legal highs industry will be over once and for all.

“I have been driving this for a considerable time. None of these products will come to market if they have not been proven safe – and the cost of proving that will be on those who make and sell them, as it should be,” he said.

“Quite simply they will now have to do what any manufacturer of any product that is consumed or ingested already has to do – make sure it is safe.”

Mr Dunne said that in the past year the Government had put a serious dent in the synthetic cannabis market with the Temporary Class Drug Notices.

“We have seen a 75 percent fall in the number of emergency call incidents around synthetic cannabis products according to National Poisons Centre data.

“That decline began the very month the Notices came into effect,” he said.

“We have banned more than 28 substances and effectively taken more than 50 products that contain them off the market. The latest four substances were just banned on Friday.

“We are winning the battle and we are about to deliver the knockout blow with this legislation,” he said.

Mr Dunne said Cabinet has agreed to establish a new regulator within the Ministry of Health which will be responsible for issuing approvals.

“Companies wishing to sell these products will need to apply to this regulator with scientific data similar to that which is required for the assessment of new medicines.

“For example, they would need to provide toxicology data and results of human clinical trials,” Mr Dunne said.

These tests will prevent products which cause common adverse reactions from being approved for legal sale.

“However, in the end these are pharmacologically active substances, and there is always some degree of risk in taking such products because people can have varying reactions to them,” he said.

Even once approved, any such products are likely to be subject to retail restrictions which will further reduce their potential to cause harm, he said.

“The details of these restrictions have not yet been agreed, but I fully expect that they will involve a legal minimum purchase age and restrictions on the types of premises where they can be sold.

“The legislation will be introduced later this year and will be in place by August 2013. In the meantime all of the existing Temporary Class Drug Notices will be rolled over for a further 12 months so there will be no slippage between them and the coming legislation,” Mr Dunne said.

The Cabinet paper and the regulatory impact statement can be found at
www.health.govt.nz/about-ministry/legislation-and-regulation/regulatory-impact-statements/new-regulatory-regime-psychoactive-substances

Ends.



Questions and Answers



What are low risk psychoactive substances?

This refers to new psychoactive substances for which the risks are low enough that they meet the approval criteria set by the regulatory. We say ‘low-risk’ to avoid implying that they will be entirely safe, as there will always be some risk. This is because different people have different reactions to pharmacologically active substances.

Why are we doing this?

We are doing this because the current situation is untenable. Current legislation is ineffective in dealing with the rapid growth in synthetic psychoactive substances which can be tweaked to be one step ahead of controls. Products are being sold without any controls over their ingredients, without testing requirements, or controls over where they can be sold. The government must prove a risk of harm before controlling a substance. The new regime will require a supplier or manufacturer to apply to a regulator for a safety assessment before any product can be sold.

Are we legalising drugs?

No. The regime will provide stronger controls over psychoactive substances. At the moment, these products are unregulated, with no control over ingredients, place of sale, or who they can be sold to. Because they are synthetic substances, there are a huge number of potential ingredients, which makes it unfeasible to deal with them individually.
It will be illegal to sell any product which has not been through an assessment. There will be strict restrictions on where products can be sold, the purchase age, and marketing restrictions.
What would it cost a manufacturer to take a product through the approval process, and how long would it take?

Based on initial proposals, it is estimated that the cost of testing any product will be in the range of $1 million to $2 million and will take between one and two years.

What will the implications of the new regime be for cannabis?
The legal status of cannabis will not change. This is because the regime will only cover new psychoactive substances that are not already classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.
Why don’t you just ban everything?
Legislation should not be used to restrict behaviour that cannot be proved to be harmful. Products that meet the approval criteria will be approved. However, our position will still be that not using these products is the safest option.
Is this a stealth way of banning everything and never approving any product?

No. Clear testing requirements are being established to determine the risks of psychoactive products. Products that meet the approval criteria will be approved.

How will risk/safety be determined?

Consistent toxicological and behavioural testing will be required for every product seeking approval. A new regulator will be established to consider the data from this testing for each product. Products that meet the approval criteria will be approved.

What do you mean by the regulator?

A regulator will need to be established for psychoactive substances. This regulator will oversee the approval of products, monitor for compliance with post market restrictions, and reassess products in light of any new evidence of harm that might arise.

How many drugs will get approved?

We don’t know this yet. Products that meet the approval criteria will be approved. This will require toxicological and behavioural testing.

How much will this cost?

Modelling of the start-up costs for the new regime is currently being worked on. A detailed report on fee-setting and costing will be provided to Cabinet by 1 October 2012.

We expect that over time, the costs of this regime will be recuperated through applications fees paid by industry.

Who will do the risk assessments?

The new regulator will consider toxicological and clinical data for each product.

Does this mean the Government is endorsing drugs?

No. At the moment these products are available without any information regarding their risks to health. We are changing the system to require industry to prove they do not pose a greater than a low risk of health before they may be sold.
Will there be controls to stop children buying these drugs from dairies?

Yes, it is intended that there will be restrictions on where substances can be sold and a minimum purchase age. I will provide Cabinet with full details of these restrictions by 1 October 2012.

What happens when the legislation comes into force? Will everything be pulled from the shelves?

Decisions have not been made on this yet but there will likely be a lead in time for industry to obtain the testing results needed.

Will this just backfire and create a bigger black market?

No. We expect that having low risk psychoactive products legally available will discourage consumers from using the black market.

Hon Peter Dunne
Associate Minister of Health