The shocking Schoolies drug statistics
At the end of every year we hear high school graduates are spending their Schoolies week drinking less, actually taking care of their hotel rooms and just generally behaving better.
But as their binge drinking and politeness shine through, Schoolies are picking up a different habit and engaging in even riskier behaviour - by taking illicit drugs.
About 80 per cent of Schoolies celebrating on the Gold Coast in the first week are under the age of 18, meaning their partying is restricted to the streets, beaches and hotel rooms.
Out all night and surrounded by police officers, Schoolies are ditching the idea of downing Vodka Cruisers in back alleys and popping pills instead.
Speaking to news.com.au on the opening night of Schoolies, dozens of teens admitted they were under the influence of MDMA, or caps.
On Saturday night, a group of boys from the Gold Coast suburb of Helensvale said they were yet to meet up with people who weren't on some form of illicit substance.
"Who isn't doing it here? Everyone is on stuff," 18-year-old Josh said.
"You know how drinking has gone down for our generation? It's cause drugs has gone up. It's cheaper and we're out drinking all night and when you drink a fair bit you start to feel tired and stuff. When you take pills you're just up a bit and relaxed. The only bad thing is when you start coming down and you sort of want more."
Jack and his four other friends said they weren't planning on doing drugs every night, instead choosing to take MDMA every second night.
"We're locals so we have mates here that we can buy from. F***ing oath it was easy to get," Jack added.
Of the 49 Schoolies news.com.au spoke with, only five said they weren't on drugs and had no interest in doing them. Three of those five were adamant the questions were coming from an undercover cop.
Most of the teens who weren't on drugs on Saturday said they'd still be open to try them - claiming Schoolies week would be the perfect opportunity for their first time.
"If someone I knew offered them to me, I would do it this week. It's Schoolies, it'd be a good memory," western Sydney teen Boyd said.
Trying illicit drugs, in their hotel room or surrounded by people they trust, was an attractive idea to 15 Schoolies kids.
"If the circumstances arise, I would do it," recently graduated school captain Jack said.
Jack and his fellow school captain friend Jake admitted it would "have to be of their own accord" if they took drugs.
"We've seen a lot of our friends take them. They're easy to get and I think a lot of people fall into peer pressure and want to fit in," Jake said.
"For us, it depends where they came from. I wouldn't be doing them out and wandering around like everyone else. It'd have to be with people I trust."
While most teens news.com.au spoke with said they knew it was a good idea to start small - trying half a cap instead of taking a whole one - four kids were shocked to hear immediately taking two MDMA capsules for their first time probably wasn't a wise idea.
"I took two caps and my boyfriend took two - we wanted to be on the same level," 17-year-old Kaycee said.
"We've done them before but this is my first time taking two. I feel OK for now, I think."
Of the 49 Schoolies news.com.au spoke with, 23 were under the influence of one MDMA capsule each.
Last year, the Global Drug Survey launched a campaign called, "Don't be daft, start with half", to try and encourage younger people to take it easy on their first time.
One Brisbane teen, who had bought and tried cocaine for the first time on Saturday night, said it was easy for him to find drugs in Surfers Paradise.
"It cost me $300 but I think it wasn't that good because it's already starting to wear off," the Brisbane teenager said.
MDMA cost much less, about $20 a capsule.
"We just had to fight off these two girls for a guy's last two caps," Brisbane teen Emannuel said.
"Everyone has been coming up to me asking me for caps. I reckon at least 20 Schoolies kids have asked me for stuff. Maybe I look like a dealer."
Celebrating teens also seemed to have little qualms about discussing their drug use out in the open.
A group of boys joked, "Bro, I can't take the screaming anymore. Let's just go and smoke some cones back at the hotel."
Another girl was heard screaming at her boyfriend, "You still owe me for the caps".
Dozens of teens also used the opening night of the Schoolies festival to run wild through the streets of Surfers Paradise, wearing sunglasses and furiously chewing gum.
MDMA capsules typically cause a person's pupils to dilate and their jaw to clench. Wearing glasses and chewing gum are techniques people use to try and hide their drug use.
'BE HONEST WITH SUPPORT SERVICES'
Schoolies organisers are encouraging teens to be honest with support services about the substances they're on.
"Our message to young people is to 'be safe and watch out for your mates'. We also want to drive home the message that 'if you are offered drugs, even by someone you might know, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's safe, you don't know what is in them or how that particular drug might affect you'," Richard Norman, the service development manager at Schoolies partner organisation Drug ARM, said.
"We also encourage any young person who has taken alcohol or other drugs to be honest with support services so they can receive the support they need and stay safe."
Mr Norman said kids will engage in risky behaviour while on Schoolies but they're also seeing them engage in some level of harm minimisation.
"We do see young people engaging in harm minimisation. For example, many of the young people consuming alcohol are staying hydrated thanks to our volunteers who last year handed out over 13,400 cups of water from our Recharge Zone on the esplanade," Mr Norman said.
Every year, teens are invited to take a confidential survey at the Drug ARM's Recharge Zone in Surfers Paradise.
In 2016, 42 per cent of teens used tobacco, 46 per cent said they'd drank energy drinks, 30 per cent had used marijuana and 14 per cent admitted to taking ecstasy.
As they do every year, Queensland Police conduct random searches on teenagers partying in Surfers Paradise.
On Saturday night, officers arrested six Schoolies - three males and three females - on nine charges, the majority of which were for drug possession. The number of first night arrests was the same as last year.
Despite the almost 50 kids admitting they were on - or open to taking - drugs, studies continue to show teens are trying illicit substances later than their parents.
Data from the Health Department found 84 per cent of kids aged between 12 and 17 had never used cannabis.
Teens are also taking fewer drugs than they did 20 years ago.
Despite the drop in some drugs, MDMA use is on the rise.
Australia saw a 12.7 per cent increase in people taking MDMA between 2015 and 2016 and the drug's concentration is some of the highest its been.
"At the moment, MDMA pills seem to contain one of the highest doses that they've ever contained," Monica Barratt from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW told ABC's Hack.
"Some pills contain between 250 milligrams and 300 milligrams of MDMA. Novice users are more likely to come to harm by just taking one pill than they would have in earlier years - when pills tended to be 80 to 100 milligrams."
More than 22,000 school leavers will descend on the Gold Coast in what Schoolies organisers say will be "the best week of their life".
A total of 13,188 teenagers made their way to the first night of the annual end-of-year event.
Over the weekend, police arrested 15 schoolies on the first two nights of the annual party.
On Sunday, nine teens were arrested on 11 offences which were mainly for public nuisance and drug possession. Six were issued with liquor infringements notices.
In comparison for the same night in 2017 there were 13 schoolies arrested.
There were 14 non-schoolies arrested on 14 charges, mostly relating to public nuisance and drug possession.
"Police continue to remind school leavers that the possession and consumption of dangerous drugs is illegal and could have fatal consequences," Queensland Police said in a statement.