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THE ACT government has allowed pill testing services to be provided as a harm reduction measure to keep people “safe” at the Spilt Milk music festival in Commonwealth Park in November.Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris says consuming illicit drugs is dangerous and illegal, however, the evidence shows that pill testing can help keep young people safe.
“Experience tells us young people are likely to suffer the potentially fatal ill-effects of drugs at music festivals. In 2015 several people aged between 19 and 26 tragically lost their lives in Australia,” Ms Fitzharris says.
“The ACT government has carefully assessed the proposal from STA-Safe and will allow pill testing at Spilt Milk. We have also considered pill testing schemes in countries like New Zealand and Canada.
“Pill testing means young people who are considering taking drugs can be informed about what’s really in the their pills and how potent they are. And it creates an opportunity to remind them of the risks before they make the final decision to take a drug.”
Ms Fitzharris says there’s no evidence that having pill testing available results in increased illicit drug taking.
At music festivals in 2016 in New Zealand, 20 per cent of samples were a completely different drug to what people thought they had purchased and 11 per cent of samples were “adulterated” with additional ingredients.
The testing facility at Spilt Milk will be co-located with medical services and will be enclosed to ensure patron privacy.
At the festival a small “scraping” of the substance will be taken and analysed. Ms Fitzharris says festival-goers will then be given information about the result and about the risks of drug-taking, and the opportunity to discard the illicit substance in the amnesty bin. Amnesty bins will contain bleach to destroy the discarded substances.
Ms Fitzharris says the pill testing would be provided as a free service by the Safety Testing & Advisory Service at Festivals & Events (STA-SAFE) consortium which is led by Harm Reduction Australia, Australian Drug Observatory, Noffs Foundation, DanceWize and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.