Pill testing is being touted as an effective way of reducing drug-related hospitalisations and deaths. It has been used for years in countries such as Portugal and the Netherlands, with promising results.
Earlier this year a Victorian music festival trialled secret pill testing. Over 300 festival goers had their pills checked.
Testing revealed that some of the pills were laced with para-Methoxyamphetamine, otherwise known as Dr Death. Later laboratory testing of pills that were discarded by festival goers detected traces of NBOMe, a powerful hallucinogen. This substance has been linked to twenty hospitalisations and three deaths in Victoria alone.
Edith Cowan University academic Stephen Bright, who started the secret pill testing tent, said 99 per cent of people immediately binned their drugs when they were told they contained unknown substances.
Last month the ACT government approved pill testing at Canberra’s Spilt Milk music festival on 25 November, however it was shelved just a few weeks out.
Festival organisers say the Safety Testing Advisory Service had not provided required documentation in time for the trial to go ahead.
It is an offence to be in possession of a prohibited drug. While not condoning drug use, both the ACT Police and health authorities supported the proposed testing at the festival as a harm-minimisation strategy to save lives.
Pill testing is yet to receive the green light in NSW. A testing proposal for Maitland’s Groovin The Moo festival was denied earlier this year.
Image: Canberra CityNews