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Music fans around Australia countdown the days until the weather warms up and the summer festival season begins. Regardless of your festival of choice, your potential drug of choice is probably cut with a toxic contaminant that could definitely kill you, and you’ve got absolutely no way of checking whether you’re dropping some pure ecstasy or a cocktail of the cheapest, deadliest chemicals available. Time to talk pill testing!
Two fatal drug overdoses occurred at music festivals in a four-day period over the New Year. Yes. You read correctly. TWO people. Dead. In FOUR days. What a shame there isn’t a harm reduction strategy to minimise drug related deaths at music festivals and other major events that has proven success in a number of European countries. Oh wait, there is.
Now, let me just start by saying that I don’t take pills (heck, I don’t even like taking panadol), never have, probably never will. Not my idea of a fun time, but also I’m not particularly fond of unnecessary deaths among predominantly young people who are trying to enjoy live music and entertainment either.
Drug related fatalities at music festivals are not a new thing, it was only a few years ago that electronic music festivals were at the centre of controversy regarding overdoses and deaths as a result of illicit substances. So I think it’s time we move towards harm reduction strategies, rather than the current zero-tolerance sniffer dogs and strip search approach to recreational drug use at large events.
Pill testing has proven success in many European countries, it has actually become so mainstream that resources for how to best implement these strategies are readily available.
I could overwhelm you with statistics about exactly how pill testing works, or how many harmful chemicals have been found and removed from society as a result of the technology, but that’s not the point. This is not an argument about statistics and numbers, it’s about young human lives.
Whether it saves one life or one hundred lives, pill testing is worth it.
If you’ve ever been to a festival, you’d know how easy it is to sneak in illicit substances, even with a high police presence. So if what we’re doing clearly isn’t working, why not invest that money into something that will save lives?
85 pills were tested across the day, and while they found some high quality pure ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine, they also discovered two extremely lethal chemicals, including N-Ethylpentylone. To put that in context for you, N-Ethylpentylone is a stimulant that causes lethal heart palpitations, circulatory issues and hallucinations.
Last year’s Groovin The Moo festival in the ACT made history as the first Australian festival to trial pill testing technology, and the results speak for themselves. 85 pills were tested across the day, and while they found some high quality pure ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine, they also discovered two extremely lethal chemicals, including N-Ethylpentylone. To put that in context for you, N-Ethylpentylone is a stimulant that causes lethal heart palpitations, circulatory issues and hallucinations, which is renowned for causing a huge number of accidental overdoses throughout the world. If it weren’t for the testing facilities at this festival, these chemicals would’ve almost definitely been consumed with potentially lethal consequences.
More recently, reports have spread of a dangerous orange pill that is currently in circulation that could have possible links to the two recent fatalities over the New Year’s period. It’s great that festival organisers have put out warnings about the potentially lethal substance, but wouldn’t it just be safer to let recreational drug users test their pills?
Regardless of your stance on recreational drug use, it’s undeniable that the zero-tolerance policy that is currently being implemented doesn’t f*cking work.
Regardless of your stance on recreational drug use, it’s undeniable that the zero-tolerance policy that is currently being implemented doesn’t f*cking work. No matter what festival you’re attending, you’re probably going to see more sniffer dogs than you are band t-shirts. But even with such an incredibly high police presence, we can’t seem to make it through a festival season without at least one drug-related fatality. So why the hell isn’t the government taking action?
The major argument proposed by the police and politicians is that pill testing legitimises illicit drug use and gives the illusion that pills are safe, but let’s be real here. Have you EVER met a recreational drug user that doesn’t understand the potential consequences of illicit substances? Because I sure as hell haven’t.
The government literally funded a stuffed giraffe to come into primary schools to educate us on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, it’s not a lack of education that’s causing these deaths. But clearly Healthy Harold didn’t work, because despite knowing that drugs are bad for us, we’re still out here taking pills at festivals, and because the government cares more about zero tolerance than actually saving lives, this has lethal consequences. Everyone is well aware of the risks of illicit substances, and yet we’re still here discussing the multitude of drug related fatalities among young people at festivals every year.
We can’t change the fact that drugs are a part of the festival scene, but we CAN change the way we try to combat it.
Whether you’re sneaking them in inside a whole roast chicken, or inside the cavities of something … else … drugs are making their way into festivals in uncontrollable quantities. So rather than strip searching everyone that walks through the gate, and not actually catching many people, why not focus on actual harm reduction strategies?
Pill testing isn’t something that needs to be up for debate.
We’ve seen it work, and not just in one or two places. Pill testing is already a readily available service in a number of European countries including Switzerland, Austria, Spain, France, Belgium and Germany. So how many more young Australians need to die before the government finally catches on?