Majority back pill testing amid overdoses and push for change

Most people want pill testing at music festivals and nightclub precincts.

Days after 21 people were hospitalised for drug overdoses at Melbourne’s Electric Parades Music Festival, and just over a month after three people were killed in Melbourne by a toxic batch of MDMA (ecstasy), a February 21 poll found most Australians support pill testing to allow consumers to know what is in the drugs they buy.

The recent spate of overdoes has led to renewed calls to implement trials of drug checking services, or pill testing, at music festivals and nightclub precincts, Sydney Drug Lawyers reported on February 24.

A February 21 Essential Media poll found majority support for the push, with 57% of Australians supporting a roll-out of pill testing services. Only 13% of those polled opposed the idea.

Despite popular support and the recent overdoses, Victorian health minister Martin Foley said the state government had no plans to introduce drug or pill testing.

The Guardian said on February 20 that harm reduction advocates said the overdoses “could have been prevented if consumers had access to crucial information about the concentration and chemical makeup of the drugs they planned to take”.

Dr Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, told The Guardian that the punitive, policing-based approach to reducing harm from illicit drugs had not worked — and drug-testing services should be offered as a public health initiative.

“Nowhere else in public health policy do we say ‘you are much better off being ignorant than you are being informed’.” he said.

The Greens have initiated an online petition to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in support of pill testing services. The petition states: “Thousands of Victorians this festival season will be taking party drugs and putting themselves at greater risk of overdose or death as they don’t know what’s in each pill or powder.

“Each year we see multiple cases of people dying needlessly, despite huge resources being funnelled into law enforcement, such as drug sniffer dogs at festivals.

“The war on drugs is not working! We know that despite our tough law and order approach to drug taking, Australia has one of the highest drug taking rates in the world.

“We need to focus on keeping people who do take drugs safe from deadly harm. Pill testing has been happening in Europe for years and has been proven to lower the amount of drug use and keep people alive.

“Medical, scientific and legal experts agree that pill testing should be implemented immediately.”

[You can add your name to a petition here.]

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