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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Ecstasy: Is the party over?
Rave
Club culture is changing and so are drug habits

Ecstasy has been one of the most dominant drugs in the UK club scene since rave culture took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

But there are signs that the trends in its use are changing.

Earlier this week it emerged that the average price of the drug has fallen to a record low of £3-a-pill.

And figures suggest there were at least 40 deaths related to the drug in England and Wales in 2001 - more than double than the whole of 2000.

Ecstasy tablets
Ecstasy: Average price just £3
But while the average ecstasy-user is getting younger, clubbers are increasingly turning to other drugs like cocaine as the e-inspired club culture of a decade ago undergoes a slow metamorphosis.

Hugh Garry, a DJ and a club promoter for Garlands in Liverpool which burnt down earlier this month, said the public's clubbing and drug tastes had changed.

"People are looking for other ways of entertaining themselves such as bars with late licenses that have their own DJs and cocaine use is on the up," he said.

Mr Garry, producer of Radio 1 Online's dance section, said: "In the old days, people used to spend their hard earned cash on some ecstasy as their weekend treat. Now, coke is more affordable and people choose to take that.


Four years ago in Edinburgh a gram of coke would cost £100, now it's £35. It's affordable

Mike Cadger, Crew 2000
"Club culture has been up and down over the years. In 1998. Mixmag said clubland was dead but in that year Radio 1's roadshow in Ibiza was its most successful ever.

"Tastes change and dance music has changed but it's still popular. Ecstasy just isn't such an integral part of it anymore."

Only last week, Liverpool's famous dance night Cream announced it was to close its doors for the summer.

It is to hold a 30-day review to assess its future prompted by the shift in dance culture from clubbing nights to festivals and arena tours.

One organisation which has some claim to have its finger on the drugs and club pulse is Scotland's Crew 2000 - a drugs information project which goes out to clubbers and festivals-goers on their own territory.

'Cleaner drug'

Spokesman Mike Cadger said as far as Scotland was concerned ecstasy use had plateaued.

"Ten years ago people started taking ecstasy at the age of about 17, 18 and 19.

"These days ecstasy is being accessed much younger - 15 or 16. The price has declined due to saturation in the market."

Mr Cadger said the mid-teens were buying ecstasy until they could afford to buy other class A drugs such as cocaine which were perceived as being more sophisticated.

He said: "Four years ago in Edinburgh a gram of coke would cost £100, now it's £35. It's affordable."

Mr Cadger said recreational drug users were turning to cocaine because it was considered "cleaner" and the recovery period was much quicker.

He said: ¿There are also very few cocaine fatalities and when you think an estimated 500,000 ecstasy tablets are taken every weekend, 56 deaths a year is very low.

"More people die from peanut allergies."

'Ecstasy use stable'

St George's Hospital in London, blames the rise in ecstasy deaths on the increasing strength of many tablets taken by clubbers.

"The rise comes at the same time as ecstasy becomes cheaper and is used more recreationally in the dance culture by people who wouldn't normally take it," added a spokesman.

DrugScope's Cara MacDowall is not sure the answer is quiet so simple.

"As the record low price of ecstasy shows, the numerous seizures and ecstasy's current grading as a class A drug have had a minimal impact on availability and price.

"As ecstasy use is relatively stable, it is obvious that levels of use are affected by more than price or legal classification.

"It may also be that people are choosing to use cocaine rather than ecstasy as research shows that cocaine use has risen over recent years."

See also:

10 Jul 02 | Breakfast
19 Jun 02 | Health
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