This Sunday, the first ever trial of pill testing in Australia took place at the Canberra stop of Groovin The Moo. This was a big step towards ensuring drug safety at festivals and events around the country, and is something many people have long been fighting for.
A full list of findings and information will be available later this week. However, the few stats released by STA Safe member Matt Noffs show the trial was successful in reducing harm and drug related issues at the festival.
Here is Australia's first official #pilltesting service in numbers:
85 samples tested
50% was 'other' (lactose, sweetener, paint)
50% was pure MDMA
2 of the samples were deadly
So, harm reduced.
We did it.
— Matt Noffs (@mattnoffs) April 29, 2018
Of the tested samples, 50% contained substances outside of the drugs festival-goers were expecting to take. Two samples were confirmed to be possibly deadly and have high risks of causing an overdose.
It has also been confirmed that some punters utilised the amnesty bins available to dispose of their substances. Whilst technically illegal, the police were supportive of the trial and did not enter the testing tent at any point.
There was only one arrest on drug charges at the Canberra leg of the festival as opposed to the 40 drug related arrests at the Maitland leg of the festival the day before.
What did the punters think?
The Canberra Times questioned many of the festival goers about the pill testing initiative, and found only one punter who disagreed with having pill testing at the festival.
Most others thought the initiative was smart, one woman called it “a nice compromise”. Another attendee stated his support by saying “No matter how many laws you put in, people are still going to do what they want, most people would rather be safe.”
There is still a few days before we can see the full results of this groundbreaking trial. However, from the information already released, it is clear that the pill testing was a success. There is still a long way to go before it becomes a normal part of festivals and festival culture around Australia.
Outside of making the testing legal and getting the support of all various parts of government involved, there are some improvements that can be made building on from this first trial. There was little information at the festival about where to go for pill testing. It was also noted by the Canberra Times that there was a police presence around the testing tent.
Before the festival, the ACT Police vowed to not enter the tent and pledged their support to the initiative. However it seems they did have a presence around the tent, which caused concern for several of the attendees.
As the first trial of pill testing in Australia, it was not expected to be entirely smooth sailing. The overall outcome seems to be a very positive one and the goal of reducing drug related harm at the festival seems to have been reached.
This trial is a massive step in the right direction when it comes to the policing of recreational drug use at Australian festivals. Hopefully it is a catalyst in bring the focus on to safety and responsibility when it comes to the subject.