Thousands Of Free Pill Testing Kits Will Be Distributed At NSW Music Festivals Over Summer
The basic kits will be made available despite government opposition, but advocates say it's not enough.
Thousands of free pill testing kits will be made available at NSW music festivals this summer, as harm reduction advocates and medical experts continue to butt heads with an intransigent state government.
The simple, do-it-yourself kits are seen as a legal workaround in the face of Premier Mike Baird’s threat to prosecute anyone associated with pill testing. However experts have admitted that the kits are limited in what they can detect, and have warned that more drug-related deaths are likely to occur as long as the government maintains its hardline position.
Similar to those used by law enforcement, the basic kits are not illegal to possess, and will enable festival-goers to test pills for the presence of certain drugs themselves. However they cannot confirm dose levels, and are unable to detect the presence of other substances, including potentially dangerous cutting agents.
“This is definitely not our preferred option, it is our only available option,” Harm Reduction Australia president Gino Vumbaca told Fairfax. “We witnessed a number of deaths last year. The unfortunate reality is, tragedies will again occur this summer.”
“When it came to discussing the available options with government, we couldn’t even get a foot in the door,” he continued. “We have since decided we cannot sit back idly and do nothing.”
Vumbaca’s concerns were echoed by emergency medical specialist Dr. David Caldicott, who earlier this year pledged to carry out a privately-funded pill testing trial even if it meant breaking the law. “I’m frustrated that we are forced down this road, largely as a consequence of real inaction by political leadership,” said Caldicott. “These kits give no information about purity and one of the biggest problems we have in this summer’s market is very high dose MDMA.”
Under Caldicott’s preferred method, festival-goers would be able hand over their drugs to onsite doctors and medical professionals who would analyse them with laboratory-grade equipment prior to consumption. Such as scheme has been backed by medical experts, festival organisers and former law enforcement officials. Unfortunately Premier Mike Baird has previously dismissed the concept of pill testing as “ridiculous”, instead telling young people to simply abstain. “Don’t take the pills and you’ll be fine.”
Thanks for the hot tip, Mike.
“It is disappointing,” said Caldicott of the half-measure. “There is a far better way we could do this. But [the government] have ignored the evidence and expertise available to them.”
Feature image via Strawberry Fields/Facebook