Dangerous substances found at Groovin the Moo pill testing trial


drugs pills ecstasy mdma pill testing australia grooving the moo
Photo: Creative Commons

The Pill Testing Australia group has called on state governments to trial pill testing after they detected risky substances at a Canberra music festival.

The group ran the pill testing trial at Groovin The Moo in Canberra in April, for a second consecutive year.

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The trial’s aim was to “provide a health service to reduce the harms associated with drugs and to broadly diminish the health, social and economic costs of drug use.”

A total of 234 participants took part in the free service and the clinical team tested 170 substances. The report confirmed seven pills contained N-ethyl pentylone. Experts have linked that substance to multiple overdoses at festivals overseas. Ketamine, cocaine and methamphetamines were also found.

After learning of the dangers, all seven participants didn’t hesitate to use the amnesty bin to discard the dodgy pills rather than take them.

Emergency Medicine Consultant Dr David Caldicott oversaw the clinical team at the pill testing trial at the Canberra festival.

“Pill testing services offer a unique and efficacious opportunity to engage with young people and … reduce the risk of drug-related harm,” Dr Caldicott said.

“This cohort is unlikely to have ever had contact with health services in relation to their drug use.

“There is no doubt among experts and health industry bodies that providing a pill testing service which includes face to face interactions for patrons with health and medical professionals significantly reduces harm and the consumption of dangerous illicit drugs.”

He said two pill testing pilots conducted in Canberra had now produced data backing that theory. He said opponents must now provide more than “empty rhetoric” towards their lack of support.

The Australian National University will release an independent evaluation of the trial results later in the year.

What’s happening with pill testing in other states?

Earlier this year, a NSW coronial inquest began into the pill-related deaths of seven festivalgoers across the state. This included 22-year-old Brisbane man Joshua Tam last December.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has ruled out pill testing at music festivals, despite calls from medical experts. The Victorian government has also opposed the tests. The Victorian Greens have campaigned for pill testing.

In Queensland, Health Minister Steven Miles said in February the government would “look closely” at the Canberra pill testing trial as “part of the solution” to festival drug deaths.

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“Our preference would be for there to be a nationally consistent outcome for festivalgoers,” he said.

“If it cannot happen at a national level then we will certainly have that discussion at a state level [after the second ACT trial].”

Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman has also strongly backed the tests at the state’s festivals.

Earlier this year, the Australian Medical Association Queensland called for a controlled pill-testing trial in the state.

“Any death or serious harm caused by taking a pill at a music festival or other event is too many,” AMAQ President Dr Dhupelia said.

“We need to have a look at a raft of solutions in terms of dealing with these issues. A pill testing trial should be considered as part of a wider harm minimisation strategy for festivals.

“AMA Queensland supports a controlled, holistic approach to minimising harm and stopping deaths among young and unsuspecting drug users.”

AMAQ said the wider strategy would also look at reducing supply and demand, minimising harm and educating on the risks.

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