Pill Testing for Fortitude Valley party precinct?

qnada michael berkman Pill Testing fortitude valley party precinct

Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley party precinct could see pill testing sites after a push to trial the drug safety program. Greens MP Michael Berkman called for a comprehensive trial after the Queensland Network of Alcohol and Other Drug Agencies (QNADA) proposed that the government introduce pill testing before the summer festival season.

QNADA, along with peak Alcohol and Other Drugs bodies from all Australian states and territories, supports pill testing to reduce harms associated with drug use.

Pill testing involves people voluntarily handing over samples of drugs for testing. Health professionals then provide information, counselling and advice based on the test result.

Research shows testing saves lives

Over 20 countries worldwide, including New Zealand, currently operate pill testing sutes. The strategy has been used internationally since the 1990s.

Here in Australia, Pill Testing Australia ran a successful trial at the 2018 and 2019 Groovin the Moo Festivals in Canberra. A team tested 170 samples and detected seven pills containing the potentially lethal N-ethyl pentylone. The festival-goers whose pills contained the substance all voluntarily discarded their drugs.

QNADA estimates that 25-95% of patrons at Australian music festivals currently use illicit drugs. A QNADA fact sheet states 20-57% of drugs tested during trials were not what festival attendees believed they had purchased. That placed them at risk of consuming contaminated drugs.

Last week, QNADA asked the Queensland government to introduce pill testing before this year’s summer festival season.

Michael Berkman

Greens MP Michael Berkman also supported a trial. He said the government should fund a trial and not leave it to the private sector.

“We can move towards permanent testing facilities, whether those are around alcohol and other drug services, safe night precincts and at temporary locations in festivals across the state.”

The MP said he was concerned the government had vacated the field.

“We know that pill testing saves lives. We know that it’s an integral part of any well-rounded response to alcohol and other drugs and the risks they carry.”

Queensland government working on ‘best practice’

Despite the well-documented success of testing as a harm-reduction and education strategy, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath told parliament the government still had issues to work through to determine best practice.

“When looking at drug testing, we have to consider whether it is in the best interests of festival-goers and lead[s] to fewer deaths, fewer injuries and less drug use. These are all the things that we are working on at the moment.”

Queensland previously resisted calls to implement a trial in 2019.

At that time then Health Minister Steven Miles said he would look “closely at the work currently underway in Canberra in relation to the use of pill testing as a harm-reduction strategy”.

The state LNP at the time dismissed testing as giving festival-goers a ‘false sense of security’.

That response would resonate with conservative voters. The ‘lock them up’ strategy apparently still appeals despite failing to curb drug use over many decades.

But pill testing will save lives.

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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1 Comment

  1. Paul
    20 August 2022

    Legalize cannabis, tax it as an excise at from 15% starting at 1g to 15g, between 16g up to 20g 20% and above to 35% from 21g to 50g maximum per individual and 2 plants maximum per household. Fix the pot holes in the roads! ➡️

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