EX­PERT CALLS FOR NT PILL TEST­ING

NT News - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE VI­VIAN

AUS­TRALIA’S lead­ing pill test­ing ex­pert says the NT is the log­i­cal next fron­tier as Ter­ri­to­ri­ans con­tinue to use in­ac­cu­rate over-the-counter DIY kits to test their drugs.

Re­newed calls for pill test­ing at mu­sic fes­ti­vals have emerged af­ter two more fa­tal over­dose deaths oc­curred over the New Year pe­riod.

The DIY test­ing kits have also sur­faced in Dar­win and can be bought over the counter at a store in the city.

David Caldicott, the man who de­signed the first pill test­ing trial in Aus­tralia, said Ter- ri­to­ri­ans were ready to have a frank de­bate on the is­sue.

“Ter­ri­to­ri­ans are sen­si­ble folk, who’ve learned how to co­ex­ist with all sorts of dan­ger­ous things, which sug­gests they have the ca­pac­ity to make sen­si­ble de­ci­sions about drug pol­icy,” Mr Caldicott said.

As the is­sue of pill test­ing reaches a tip­ping point across the coun­try, Mr Caldicott said harm re­duc­tion groups be­lieve the Ter­ri­tory could be the next ju­ris­dic­tion to adopt the prac­tice af­ter it was le­galised in the ACT last year,

“You can ei­ther get on board early like the ACT or you can be the last place to hold out, which will make you a laugh­ing stock,” he said.

“Like the ACT, peo­ple in the NT have ac­cess to their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and a sit down yarn with your lo­cal pol­lie is ac­tu­ally pos­si­ble.”

Mr Caldicott be­lieved Terri to­ri­ans would be re­cep­tive to the ben­e­fits pill test­ing can have on pub­lic safety and the health­care sys­tem.

“What we know for cer­tain is that in ju­ris­dic­tions that have pill test­ing, fewer peo­ple use pills, fewer peo­ple use mix­tures of drugs and the bur­den on the lo­cal health­care sys­tem is di­min­ished,” he said.

A pill test­ing trial de­signed by Mr Caldicott and rolled out at Groov­ing the Moo fes­ti­val in Can­berra last year found dan­ger­ous and even lethal sub­stances in par­ty­go­ers’ drugs.

In the ab­sence of for­mal pill test­ing in the NT, Ter­ri­to­ri­ans are turn­ing to over-the-counter DIY kits to test the pu­rity of their drugs.

But ex­perts say these kits, which use a colour test de­vel­oped in the 19th cen­tury, are grossly de­fi­cient at iden­ti­fy­ing harm­ful sub­stances.

“The gen­eral con­sen­sus is that (DIY kits) are not suit­able,” Mr Caldicott said.

For­mer NT po­lice com­mis­sioner Mick Palmer and NT La­bor MLA Jeff Collins, who headed the Ter­ri­tory Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee look­ing into harm re­duc­tion strate­gies for drugs and other sub­stances, have ad­vo­cated for the in­tro­duc­tion of pill test­ing to the NT.

“The con­sen­sus is that DIY kits are not suit­able”

DAVID CALDICOTT

Main Pic­ture: KERI MEGELUS

Fes­ti­val go­ers en­joy the mu­sic at the 2018 BASSINTHEGRASS in Dar­win. Inset left: David Caldicott, right: DIY test kit

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