Pills: To test or not to test?
THE pill-testing debate has been a trending topic nationally after a tragic week where a 19-year-old woman became the fifth person to die this summer from a suspected overdose at a Sydney Music Festival.
Many politicians remain staunch in their opposition to offering drug testing at festivals, claiming it would give people the green light to take substances which could still kill them.
However, drug experts back the idea, saying pill testing leads to a reduction in the harm associated with drug use.
While our region does not host any large music festivals, illicit drugs are still a prominent issue in the community.
Chief executive officer of Bridges Health and Community Care Sharon Sarah said BHCC was the largest drug and alcohol treatment provider in the Wide Bay, providing treatment services to more than 1100 people per year, with 60 per cent of those people seeking help using illegal drugs.
“People use drugs for all sorts of reasons and telling young people that it’s not safe to use drugs is not going to stop them from experimenting or occasional use at parties or festivals,” she said.
“The people we see are not young people experimenting at festivals, but those who have developed addictions, health or psychological problems or are compelled into treatment through diversion programs or the criminal justice system.”
Ms Sarah said that pill testing was one of many harm minimisation strategies that could and should be used to reduce the potentially lethal consequence of taking drugs.
“If pill testing at festivals encourages young people to get their drugs tested before taking them then they are making a considered and responsible choice,” she said.
“It’s also a chance to provide education to young people about what’s in these drugs and may make them think twice about taking them in the first place.
“To do nothing achieves nothing.”
University of the Sunshine Coast School of Health and Sports Science head Professor John Lowe said there was no evidence to suggest an identification of a pill increased drug use.
“It doesn’t stop the over use of drugs but it stops taking drugs that are not what individuals think they are,” he said.
“Short answer is no there is no ‘good’ model for the use of drugs and the abuse of drugs, however, I think pill testing is better than what we have now.”
Prof Lowe, who has worked in public health for more than 40 years, said there were many similar examples in the sector.
“People thought with the advertising of condoms it would make kids more sexually active and that is not the case.”
HARD TO SWALLOW: Another music festival death has increased debate about the possibility of testing pills to show young people what they contain.