As community health authorities prepare their drug safety strategy for Saturday’s Sleaze party, a groundbreaking conference in Sydney will emphasise the increasingly diverse health concerns partygoers face.

From hearing loss to sexual health in the gay community and rising rates of crystal meth smoking, Club Health 2005: Sydney will examine a nightlife health agenda that is no longer limited to illicit substance use.

The two-day conference, which opens today, will see about 120 delegates including local and international experts discuss nightlife health research.

Event promoters, the NSW police and a club patron will also deliver presentations at the event, which is the first national summit of its kind, after a similar international meeting in Melbourne last year.

Dr Stuart Kinner from the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre will present an analysis indicating crystal meth users are increasingly opting to smoke the drug.

Kinner told Sydney Star Observer he would show research based on the national Party Drugs Initiative suggesting crystal meth -“ or ice -“ smoking rates had increased more than eightfold in Queensland from 2000 to 2004.

Crystal meth smoking rates were similar in NSW and South Australia in the same period, suggesting greater risk of dental health problems from a drug already anecdotally linked to risky sex practices in the gay community.

The reason for that is not only does crystal meth tend to dry the mouth out and give a desire for sweet, sugary acidic drinks, Kinner said.

On top of that, if you are smoking crystal meth, what actually happens is when it vapourises, the methamphetamine is separated from the hydrochloride gas.

You end up actually inhaling hydrochloric gas, which is very corrosive for your teeth -¦ and for your entire respiratory tract.

The possible neurological effects of another popular party drug will come under scrutiny from Sydney academic Dr Iain McGregor.

McGregor, an associate professor in psychology at the University of Sydney, will examine ecstasy’s effect on the brain when taken alone and in conjunction with other party drugs such as crystal meth.

Research from South Australia will focus on PMA, a drug sometimes sold as ecstasy (MDMA) that last year prompted ACON to issue a pre-Sleaze warning after a nearly fatal overdose in Sydney.

The University of Adelaide’s Dr Rod Irvine will examine why PMA might be more dangerous than MDMA.

A Dutch harm minimisation policy under which clubbers can test their party drugs is also on the agenda, as is the issue of hearing loss.

Club Health 2005: Sydney will hear British findings indicating three-quarters of young people who are regularly clubbers risk permanent hearing damage.

Local gay and lesbian clubbers also need to be aware of sexual health risks and workplace problems associated with excessive clubbing, according to Darlinghurst GP Dr Dick Quan.

Quan, a director at Holdsworth House medical practice, will give an overview of various club-related health issues that he said were especially important in the lead-up to Sleaze.

With this weekend’s Sleaze and associated parties, I think it’s a relevant issue, he told the Star.

It is easier to find out the [club-related health] problems through check-ups. But if things like drugs become a problem, they can often become a big problem.

Paul Dillon, from Club Health 2005: Sydney host the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), said the event was unique for the breadth of issues it covered.

He expected discussion to get quite fiery, but was disappointed at the limited interest of Sydney gay venues in the event. As of Tuesday this week, no Oxford Street party spots had signed up for the conference.

This sort of event is put on to assist them, and it can be invaluable for them, Dillon said.

Meantime, ACON will deploy 30 volunteer Drug Rovers to monitor punters’ safety at Sleaze and Sunday’s Toybox Luminere day party.

I would encourage everyone to say hello to these and other volunteers on the night who will be making sure Sleaze is a safe night for all partygoers, ACON chief executive Stevie Clayton said.

Club Health 2005: Sydney is on from 29 to 30 September at Rydges Jamison, 11 Jamison Street, Sydney.

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