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Pill testing saves lives. So why doesn't Australia do it?

 by benedict k-c on  |
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Pill testing saves lives. So why doesn't Australia do it?


If you’re a festival head or someone who just likes to party, you may have heard that Spilt Milk festival in the Australian capital of Canberra, lost the right to test pills for the second time in two years.


What would have been an Australian first was ousted earlier this month with officials citing they didn’t have the correct paperwork. Speak to emergency room doctor David Caldicott however, and you’ll get a much more complicated answer than that.


To cut a long story short, pill testing advocate Dr Caldicott stated it was government pressure on the NCA (who own vast swatches of land in Canberra, including the land Spilt Milk takes place on) to request documents from Caldicott’s pill testing consortium. Upon asking the NCA if they could be more specific with their requests the NCA were unresponsive and Dr Caldicott found out the pill testing had been canceled via social media.


For the second time, Dr Caldicott saw his efforts to introduce safety measures to one Canberra festival fail. Only this time, he was also stuck with the blame.


It’s no secret that pill testing greatly reduces some of the risks associated with recreational drug use. It has been operating effectively in Europe for decades but Australian politicians are not even willing to let a pilot trial take place.


Which is a shame as pill testing saves lives.


Being able to determine what potentially harmful chemicals are in a pill means you save someone the potentially life threatening method of testing; just trying it themselves. At one festival in the UK, users discarded 25% of pills that were tested, which to say the least, saved a lot of people from a bad time.


By showing people what is in the drugs they are taking, you’re not increasing the amount of people who are going to do drugs. On the contrary, fewer people will be partaking and those that do will be doing so in a way that is much safer than before.


Add to this, the fact that Australian ecstasy pills have one of the highest levels of unknown substances in the world and you’ve got yourself a pretty compelling argument for pill testing.


Yet the Australian government still won’t allow it.


We have to ask ourselves the question: why?


To get an idea about the government’s stance, ask yourself this: What does the average politician see when they picture an ecstasy user?


Likely, they are going to imagine that one kid their eldest child was friends with who got too into partying, grew a set of Caucasian dreadlocks and never quite got over the Chemical Brothers while remaining gloriously unemployable.


To them, investing in pill testing is to invest in the habits of a life they don’t think is worth saving.


If you’re reading this hopefully you are aware that is not the case. Many people who take recreational drugs do so only once or twice a year and are more likely to be valuable members of society than not.


Yes, there are people spending their welfare on molly but they are a minority. The fact is, too many ecstasy users have enough to live for that they don’t want to die while having a good time. Some of us are doctors, teachers and yes, even parents.


While Australia is trailing the world on this, the USA isn’t far ahead. Thankfully, pill testing in the United States is becoming more common but still pales in comparison to countries such as Austria, Portugal and The Netherlands. To get serious change there needs to be a change in conversation.


So what can we do about this?


Here are a few suggestions:

  • Write to your local representative and let them know you support pill testing.

  • Attend a festival with pill testing facilities.

  • Let festivals that don’t provide pill testing know that you would prefer if they did.

  • Speak more openly about your drug use and see if you can shift a few stigmas.

  • Support pill testing consortiums, either via shared support online or donate to their campaigns.


Unless of course, you live in a great part of the world where they have legal pill testing in which case, great job!


Australia has many great things to offer overseas travellers, but if you’re going to a festival there, it might be a good idea to stick to beer until their government sorts their shit out.


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