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January 28, 2022

Call for pill testing after party death

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A supplied police photo of drugs seized in Armidale AAP Image/NSW Police
A supplied police photo of drugs seized in Armidale AAP Image/NSW Police

The recent death of Jake Monahan from Nimbin and the treatment and hospitalisation of two other men at the recent rave in Mount Lindesay has sparked renewed debate on the use of pill testing for illegal drugs.

However, responsible drug policy is falling on deaf ears as NSW Police Minister, Troy Grant has again ruled out pill testing. ‘Troy Grant, has his fingers in his ears and has no clue about pill testing,’ said Greens NSW MP and Drugs & Harm Minimisation spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi in a recent statement.

Dr Faruqi has even gone so far as to call for a pill testing pilot to be conducted on the northern rivers.

‘We have a NSW Government that has its head in the sand on drugs and harm minimisation,’ said Dr Faruqi. ‘The prohibitionist status quo is killing people, so we need new evidence based approaches. Pill testing provides information to people who are going to take drugs, and allows medical professionals to come in face-to-face contact with drug users and give them some sound advice.’

President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, Dr Alex Wodak, supports the introduction of pill testing in night clubs and at festivals and raves. ‘The principle is simple, every drug death of a young, fit, healthy Australian could largely if not totally be prevented,’ said Dr Wodak.

‘Testing has to answer three questions: Which drugs are in a the pill? The quantity of the drugs in the pill? And are there any dangerous contaminants in the pill? Not all testing answers all three questions. There is the regent test that can be bought from specialist shops that is a qualitative test that tells us what drugs are in the pill but doesn’t tell us how much or what other dangerous contaminants are in there. These tests are legal in Australia.

‘But you need an accurate form of testing combined with quality drug education with is currently illegal in Australia. Many countries make those tests available and there are up to 20 years experience in over a dozen countries – including Switzerland, Norway, Germany, Spain and France – where so far there have been no negative aspects to the tests.’

One outcome from providing pill testing has been how it changes the drug market. ‘Different dealers start to compete in safety as a result of testing,’ continued Dr Wodak. ‘The proportion of dangerous drugs decline. People start throwing away pills they are told are dangerous.

‘Medically it is of assistance to know what’s in the tablet, they can perhaps provide an antidote or ensure it is purge or passed quickly. For a medic it gives you an advantage for treatment rather than being in the dark.’

‘What possible harm could a trail do?’ asked Dr Wodak.

‘It is clear that young people continue to take tablets – hospitalisation and death – it doesn’t deter young people.’

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