Festival lovers advocate for pill testing

Festival-goers have argued the case for pill testing to be introduced in NSW.

LOCAL music festival lovers are unsupportive of the government’s ‘no drugs’ policy, and argue that the introduction of pill testing is a necessary step in reducing fatal overdoses.

Since September last year, six Australians have died as a result of recreational drug use at music festivals. The latest fatality was 19-year-old Alex Ross-King, who died of a suspected overdose at the FOMO festival in Parramatta last weekend.

Despite the climbing fatality figures, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has once again rejected calls for pill testing at festivals, and the government maintains a hard ‘no drugs’ stance.

Local live music lover Dylan Harmer said that a rigid ‘no drugs’ policy is ineffective, and that pill testing services would be more successful in reducing harm than banning pills altogether.

“I’m in support of pill testing,” Mr Harmer said.

“With harder crackdowns on drugs coming into festivals, the chance of harm, in my opinion, rises.

“If they’re desperate, they will find them, and the chance will be higher that the pills are cut with the more deadly substances. So pill testing, in my opinion, is good for this.”

Pill testing is a harm minimisation initiative through which people can get their drugs tested and ask questions about the effects of different substances.

Pill testing reveals the purity and contents of a tablet, as many recreational drugs are cut with filler substances that can result in overdoses. The aim of the service is education – it enables users to make informed decisions about the substances they are ingesting, and experts report that many users change their mind once they discover what is really in their pills.

While pill testing services have been available in various other countries for years, Australia’s first professional pill testing service was at Canberra’s Groovin’ the Moo festival last April.

Seasoned festival-goer Alice Jeffery is also a supporter of pill testing. Having attended a wealth of Australian music festivals including FOMO, Spilt Milk, Groovin’ the Moo, Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival and Big Day Out, she said that pill testing will only serve to improve the safety of the festival environment.

“There is a big misconception that pill testing promotes the idea that drugs are safe. That’s not how it works. It’s actually more about education, about what’s in your pills and the effects that drug is going to have on you. It confronts you with the risk of taking that drug and what it will do to you.”

Ms Jeffery urged the government to reconsider its anti-pill testing stance, arguing that the implementation of the service would only have positive outcomes.

“The government’s current strategy of just telling people not to take drugs clearly isn’t working, as is clear by the number of deaths even in the last few months. Pill testing might have been able to prevent those deaths, by informing them of what was in those pills, and revealing that it was a lethal dose. The government should be more focused on protecting than punishing, and pill testing could achieve this.”