EXPERT CALLS FOR NT PILL TESTING
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”
Festival goers enjoy the music at the 2018 BASSINTHEGRASS in Darwin. Inset left: David Caldicott, right: DIY test kit