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The New Zealand Drug Foundation today warned against heeding calls to ban BZP, the active ingredient found in many 'party pills', because such a move would be against the best evidence currently available.

This morning, Christchurch doctor Paul Gee repeated his calls to ban BZP because of an increase in people presenting to emergency departments, reporting that they are suffering from the effects of party pills.

"It is absolutely imperative that we make decisions on the legal status of drugs based on the evidence, and the evidence alone," said Ross Bell, the Drug Foundation's executive director.

"Last year, the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs concluded that there was not enough evidence to warrant banning party pills but recommended that restrictions be placed on the sale of these substances. Accordingly, Parliament introduced a new drug classification to allow this."

Mr Bell said that the EACD's report warned that restricting party pills may lead to users of these substances to seek more harmful controlled drugs as substitutes.

"Now, it is required by law that these substances not be sold to anyone under 18 years-old and that adequate health and consumer information about the risks and effects are available on the containers," said Mr Bell.

"By banning party pills, there is a real risk that these restrictions will disappear. The regulations provide useful controls that we would otherwise not have if the substances were illegal.

"However, if the evidence of all of the studies currently underway into party pills recommends that heavier restrictions be placed on them then it would be prudent to follow that advice, once they have been assessed and reviewed by the EACD.

"Of course, it would be interesting to know how many people are presenting to Dr Gee's emergency department with alcohol-related problems and whether he thinks alcohol should be banned accordingly," Mr Bell concluded.

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