Pill Testing Policy

 A best practice model for Victorian’s

’If we continue to do what we have been doing for the past 20 or 30 years in relation to drug policy, we will continue to get the issues that we face at festivals and other places every weekend and day in day out in Australia of kids putting themselves in harm. At least with pill testing, they have some information to guide their behaviour and we did see yesterday people changing their behavioural choices on the basis of the information they were given. The trial was a success and the lessons learned would be really valuable for the ACT and other jurisdictions around Australia’’.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly, after the 2018 Groovin the Moo Pill Testing Trial[1]

Preamble:

The success of the pill testing trial undertaken by the ACT Government and Harm Reduction Australia at the 2018 Groovin’ the Moo Festival represented a watershed moment in drugs and alcohol policy within Australia.

The prohibitive approach to illicit drugs currently prescribed to by all levels of Government in Australia has resulted in a number of unnecessary deaths of young people at music festivals and major events.

With the deaths of five young people in five months in New South Wales at major events last year being the most egregious example of the limitations of the existing regulatory framework[2].

The pill testing trial conducted at the 2018 Groovin’ the Moo festival resulted in 42% of participants committing to a substantial reduction in their previously intended drug taking behaviour and a significant proportion also choosing to dispose of illicit substances in nearby amnesty bins[3].

Drug checking tests were conducted with infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) at a fixed location on the festival grounds with Individuals that presented with a trafficable quantity of an illicit substance being denied access to the pill testing service[4].

With no individual who presented an illicit substance for testing at the festival subsequently being treated for drug overdose symptoms by health care professionals for the duration of the event[5].

The outcome of the 2018 trial and the successful replication of the results outlined above at the 2019 Groovin’ the Moo festival effectively necessitates the introduction of a pill testing trial in Victoria during the upcoming festival season.

The realisation of a pill testing trial would effectively ensure that the Victorian State Government’s approach to illicit drugs policy at music festivals and major events going forward would be based on effective and humane responses that prioritise health and safety outcomes above all else.

Platform:

LFDLR acknowledges the successful nature of the pill testing trial undertaken at the 2018 Groovin’ the Moo festival in the ACT.

LFDLR agrees that illicit drugs policy throughout Australia at all festivals and major events should be predicated on effective and humane responses that prioritise health and safety outcomes.

Action:

LFDLR calls upon the Victorian Health Minister, Jenny Mikakos, to ensure that a trial of mobile-pill testing services takes places within Victoria by the summer of 2020.

LFDLR calls upon the Victorian Health Minister, Jenny Mikakos, to commission a study regarding the viability of establishing front of house pill testing services within Melbourne’s Central Business District.


[1] Makkai, T., Macleod, M., Vumbaca, G., Hill, P., Caldicott, D., Noffs, M., Tzanetis, S., Hansen, F., 2018, Report on Canberra GTM Harm Reduction Service, Harm Reduction Australia.

[2] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/five-nsw-festival-drug-deaths-explained

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jun/20/pill-testing-success-in-act-proves-it-should-go-national-organisers-say

[4] https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6090099/what-you-need-to-know-about-groovin-the-moo-pill-testing/

[5] Makkai, T., Macleod, M., Vumbaca, G., Hill, P., Caldicott, D., Noffs, M., Tzanetis, S., Hansen, F., 2018, Report on Canberra GTM Harm Reduction Service, Harm Reduction Australia.

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