Pills: To test or not to test?

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - NEWS - JES­SICA LAMB Jes­[email protected]­coastchron­i­cle.com.au

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.”

Photo: Con­trib­uted

HARD TO SWAL­LOW: An­other mu­sic fes­ti­val death has in­creased de­bate about the pos­si­bil­ity of test­ing pills to show young peo­ple what they con­tain.

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