Following the tragic and untimely deaths of two young people at the Defqon music festival last weekend, it is now absolutely crucial that Australia comes to the party and supports pill testing at recreational events. Do not be mistaken: Pill testing is not condoning or encouraging illicit drug use, it is simply a means of harm reduction.
So, what is pill testing?
Pill testing is service that allows individuals to anonymously hand in their drugs to be tested before consumption. The test will provide information on the ingredients used to manufacture the drug. Once the substances are tested and the potential user is informed as to the contents, it is then the choice of the individual whether they discard it in the lab, or leave with it.
The need for such testing is because illicit drugs are not controlled or regulated, which essentially means that the manufacturers of the drugs do not need to adhere to production standards. This has resulted in drugs being cut up using rat poison, household bleach and other toxic ingredients.
In addition to sample testing, pill testing organisations also provide education and information to potential users. When individuals present to have their pills tested, they are informed of the dangers of drug use and the consequences that can follow. Information is also provided on the chemical breakdown of what they purchased.
Canberra trialled the pill testing service in April this year at the ‘Groovin the Moo Festival’. A total of 85 substances were tested, of which some contained highly toxic chemicals, including N-Ethylpentylone – which has been the cause of mass overdoses worldwide. The party goers who had purchased the pills containing N-Ethylpentylone wisely chose to dispose of the pills immediately. This saw an avoidance of a potentially tragic ending to their day and lives.
What we should do?
NSW Premier, Ms Gladys Berejiklian vows to close down the Defqon festival as a knee jerk reaction to the two deaths. Gladys claims that pill testing is not the answer. We respectfully disagree! The reality is, if the Defqon festival is banned, the drugs that would have been consumed there, will be consumed elsewhere. Threatening to ban the festival may sound in good political acumen that resonates with the ‘war on drug’ mantra in the electorate, but unless meaningful change is implemented (such as pill testing) we will continue to see the number of deaths increase in the years to come.