Party pill kits re­veal deathly el­e­ments

Sunday Herald Sun - - NEWS - JOSH ZIMMERMAN AND MONIQUE HORE

SE­CRET pill test­ing at a Vic­to­rian mu­sic fes­ti­val has un­cov­ered drugs laced with a sub­stance linked to night­club deaths and over­doses.

More than 300 fes­ti­val­go­ers checked their pills at the Jan­uary event’s il­le­gal test­ing sta­tion. A sam­ple re­vealed some of the pills were laced with para-Methoxyam­phetamine, dubbed Dr Death.

Later lab­o­ra­tory tests of pills dis­carded by those con­cerned about the con­tents also de­tected the pow­er­ful hal­lu­cino­gen, NBOMe.

The sub­stance has been linked to three deaths and 20 hos­pi­tal cases af­ter a spate of over­doses along Chapel St.

Edith Cowan Univer­sity aca­demic Stephen Bright started the rogue test­ing tent, us­ing publicly-avail­able reagent kits, af­ter be­ing of­fered ec­stasy that con­tained PMA.

He said 99 per cent of peo­ple binned their drugs when told they con­tained un­known sub­stances.

“We went to the or­gan­is­ers and ex­plained what had hap­pened,” Dr Bright, who heads the univer­sity’s ad­dic­tion stud­ies course, said. “They didn’t want to see any­body die at the fes­ti­val and gave us per­mis­sion to set up a test­ing sta­tion out the back of a tent.”

Dr Bright said the re­sults high­lighted the need for so­phis­ti­cated test­ing equip­ment, both on-site at mu­sic fes­ti­vals and also at per­ma­nent lo­ca­tions in Aus­tralian cap­i­tal cities.

Pill test­ing is com­mon in Europe, in­clud­ing the Nether­lands, where it has been cred­ited with largely erad­i­cat­ing dan­ger­ous sub­stances in pills.

Rea­son Party leader Fiona Pat­ten called for pill test­ing to be tri­alled at a Vic­to­rian fes­ti­val this sum­mer.

But Act­ing Po­lice Min­is­ter James Mer­lino ruled out a trial, with fears it could ap­pear as an en­dorse­ment for drugs.

Peo­ple caught han­dling drugs as part of pill test­ing can face crim­i­nal charges. “Our po­si­tion on pill test­ing has not changed,” Mr Mer­lino said.

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