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The Sun-Herald
By Miranda Wood, Education Reporter, November 18 2002

Date rape and drugs

Date rape drugs have been targeted by police during schoolies week this year as a record number of NSW school-leavers start arriving at the Gold Coast.

The main streets of Surfers Paradise have been transformed into a party zone for the 50,000 schoolies expected during the month-long celebrations, which includes about 18,000 students from NSW.

But the teenagers are being warned to constantly watch their drinks after a spate of drink-spiking cases in nightclubs.

Officials are concerned for the safety of young women - 28 sexual assaults were reported during the schoolies period last year.

A total of 194 drink-spiking incidents were reported to the Gold Coast Sexual Assault Service in the last financial year.

The service's spokeswoman Di Macleod said young women from interstate were more vulnerable to sexual predators as they were less aware of sex drugs.

"It's not about the drugs, it's about the rape," she said.

"We'll be here during schoolies to pick up the pieces at the other end."

Leading up to schoolies, the Queensland Government banned the sex drug Eden which is an easily obtained veterinary tranquilliser and can be extracted on a stove top.

Its symptoms include dream-like intoxication and an inability to feel pain and movement.

Areas designated as "chill-out zones", staffed by health workers and volunteers, are available to school-leavers requiring help or basic first aid.

Drug Arm Australia health promotions co-ordinator Judith Hart, who works at the chill-out zones, said: "There are always a few incidences of drink-spiking during schoolies.

"What people don't know is that 10 per cent of victims are male."

Ms Macleod said the high number of nightclubs in Surfers Paradise attracted sexual predators.

"When I speak with other sexual assault services in the State, it does seem that most reports come from the Gold Coast," she said.

Police officer in charge of schoolies, Inspector Ken Fox, said school-leavers must always keep an eye on their drinks and never accept alcohol from strangers.
"It is a problem," he said.

Meanwhile, officials will also be on the lookout for a drug cocktail called crank, which has been available in Queensland for the past nine months.
It is a mixture of cocaine and amphetamines or heroin, and gives users a quick but very powerful high.

Inspector Fox said drugs would always be a problem at schoolies.
"We'll certainly be keeping an eye on the parasites who tend to hang around at schoolies," he said.

But despite the heavy presence of uniformed and plain-clothes police, one schoolie claimed drugs were easy to come by.

Daniel Palazzolo, 17, of the Gold Coast, said: "You can get it from anywhere, you just have to ask around.

"There are heaps of dealers here.

"Ecstasy is the big drug, more so than pot, because it makes you want to party."
Schoolies is believed to be the most profitable month of the year for Gold Coast drug peddlers, with cannabis, speed and ecstasy the common drugs sold.

Ms Hart said most schoolies were using amphetamines such as speed instead of cannabis.

"Speed has increased in popularity with the younger age groups," she said. "They will quite often bring their supplies with them here instead of buying from dealers." Ms Hart said 2 per cent of schoolies would take drugs, compared with the 90pc that would consume alcohol.

Police and liquor licensing authorities will conduct their biggest schoolies blitz on under-age drinking this year.

But the number of arrests at schoolies will not be released - for the second year in a row - in an effort to fight bad publicity.

The annual pilgrimage of students to the Gold Coast is growing every year and will inject a record $30 million into the local economy.

About 14,600 NSW students have booked their Gold Coast stay through Break Free Holidays - 2,600 more than last year. Break Free manager Matt Lloyd said most students were from Sydney and the central coast.

"The majority of NSW students will arrive on the Gold Coast from this weekend," he said.




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