Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 12 April 2018) . . Page.. 1410 ..
we must help young people be more informed about these decisions in order to improve health outcomes.
Often it is at music festivals that young people will try these so-called party drugs, drugs such as ecstasy and MDMA, which we know have high contamination and toxicity rates. In 2015 alone, party drugs claimed six lives at Australian music festivals and there were countless overdoses. At Sydney’s Stereosonic Festival a young woman died, 120 people were treated for drug-related issues and nine others were taken to hospital.
The last thing we want to see is this kind of thing happening to young Canberrans at this year’s Groovin the Moo festival. Pill testing has the potential to save lives, and there is still time to prepare these services for Groovin the Moo this year.
As I have explained before in this place, pill testing involves a simple on-site test by medical experts. The technology that the Greens have advocated for uses portable laboratory-grade equipment, which can provide information about the composition of the pill. The test results take around 15 to 20 minutes to be processed and in this time there is an opportunity for qualified health experts to engage with users to talk about their drug use. This is one of the most important aspects of pill testing—the opportunity to have a conversation with a young person who often would not otherwise engage with health services.
We have to accept that despite all the efforts on enforcement and education some young people do still take illicit drugs. In this situation the right thing to do is to try to minimise the tragic harm and deaths that can result, by treating this as a health issue and putting it in the hands of drug treatment experts.
Pill testing as a harm reduction measure can work hand in hand with other initiatives. Police can still operate at festivals where pill testing occurs, targeting drug suppliers rather than individual users who are accessing the testing service.
An additional benefit is that pill testing services collect extensive data on the types and composition of drugs that are in circulation, which is invaluable to health professionals and police in their broader drug prevention efforts. Pill testing could not only reduce major harm at Groovin the Moo and other festivals but could also reduce overall illicit drug use, and the evidence backs this up.
The case for pill testing is well established. It has been happening in several European countries for years and is proven to lower the level of drug use and keep people alive. In Austria two-thirds of drug users who were informed by a government-funded pill testing service of potential toxic harm—this is Austria—decided not to consume their drugs and told their friends not to either. In Australia—and the two do get confused, Australia and Austria—76 per cent of participants in a hypothetical study reported they would not take a pill with an unknown substance in it.
Just this week we saw the release of another review from Deakin University showing that onsite testing of party drugs could reduce harm and potentially save lives. The authors found that the evidence has clearly identified the inadequacy of existing