In the last 3 months 5 people have died in Australia as a result of using illicit drugs at music festivals. Many more ended up in hospital.
Jane has arrived at the Groovygroove music festival with a group of her friends. They are all excited to be seeing some of their favourite bands and are looking forward to a fantastic day of celebration.
In her purse Jane has a small pill of ecstasy that she recently purchased and will take shortly. Only this pill is not ecstasy.
Jane will be dead before the morning.
Jane is your daughter, your best friend, your acquaintance, your hairdresser, your nurse, your lawyer, your lover, your neighbour.
Jane is your self.
The evidence now suggests that pill testing by professional volunteers at music festivals is an effective approach to harm minimisation.
If Jane had tested her pill and found that it was not what she thought it was, she probably would have thrown it away, she may have re-evaluated her drug usage behaviours and she may have talked about all this with her friends.
The evidence for pill testing shows us that:
- it reduces the amount of drugs consumed by individuals
- it reduces the variety of drugs consumed in a session, both of which are risk factors for overdose & death
Pill testing involves the use of some form of infrared spectroscopy equipment that is able to identify the ingredients of a pill by comparing it to a database of known substances.
The results are then provided in a clear and meaningful way allowing the person to make an informed decision around their choice to take the substance.
For example, in the Australian Capital Territory pill testing services assign the results to one of three colours:
- RED = drugs associated with increased harm or possible death.
- YELLOW = drugs that are not consistent with what the person thinks they have purchased.
- WHITE = drugs that have ingredients consistent with what the person thinks they have purchased.
Pill testing services do not advise people it is safe to take drugs, nor do they promote the consumption of drugs.
They do provide a safe means of disposing of drugs should the person decide to do so. They also provide a professional standard of information, counselling and support to help people who are considering taking drugs at a concert understand the risks better and know what to do in the event of any adverse reactions or experiences.
Pill testing at concerts also provides other concert goers with real-time information regarding the circulation and frequency of harmful batches of drugs.
Information collected by these services can also be used to provide better public health and harm reduction policies and programs.