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Byron Shire
October 18, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: To pill or not to pill

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After the death of a 19-year-old man at a music festival on the weekend, a high-ranking police commander issued the statement: ‘There is no acceptable use for drugs’. 

What a weird thing to say. Someone’s lost their kid and he’s issued a moral statement telling kids ‘it’s wrong’. Is he blaming them? Does he really think that a moralising punitive approach is going to impact on partygoers? 

‘I was going to take drugs this weekend but the cops said it’s unacceptable.’ What kind of language is that anyway? 

It’s like something out of a Jane Austen book. ‘Mr Darcy’s just dropped some MDMA, he bought it off Miss Bennett. It’s unacceptable.’ 

Drug taking would certainly make Pride and Prejudice a lot more tolerable. Acid can only improve a second reading. 

It’s been a while since I last took illicit drugs but I do remember it was fun. A lot of fun. Unacceptable fun. That’s the point of taking drugs isn’t it? 

All over the world young people take drugs at festivals. They don’t do it because it’s ‘acceptable’. They do it because it’s fun. And everyone else is doing it. I guess for them that makes it acceptable. 

In fact at some festivals if you’re not on drugs you’re the odd one out. Even young people who wouldn’t ordinarily take drugs will decide that this is their chance to give it a go. 

Festivals and illicit drug taking have always been bedfellows. Big Music, Big Lights, Big Pupils. I think not accepting that is unacceptable. I think not introducing pill testing at festivals is unacceptable. Kids dying when we could have prevented it with a change in policy is unacceptable. 

Harsh drug penalties clearly don’t work. If they did people would have stopped using drugs decades ago. But they haven’t. We can’t ‘stop’ kids taking drugs so why don’t we make it safer? Why not give them the agency to make a choice whether to take a substance by telling them just what it is they are about to take? 

Our government puts young people at risk because they won’t introduce a harm-minimisation strategy that has been shown to reduce these sort of outcomes. The NSW government won’t play ball. They’ve decided to have a beer and occupy the high moral ground. 

Kids die on high moral ground. Like that boy on the weekend – and the two kids a few months before. Instead of following the lead of countries worldwide who have introduced pill testing and reduced deaths, the government have introduced tougher drug supply and possession laws. Yep, if you take drugs, you’ll get the naughty chair. Great. Now they’ll just lock our kids up instead. More kids will be arrested. 

And you know what will happen? I predict that won’t impact on festival drug taking at all. It will probably just increase it. The 18-year-old woman at the Knockout Games of Destiny who was arrested with 400 MDMA caps will no doubt go to court and allegedly face her destiny. If found guilty (eg. of supply), she will face a long sentence, and she will bear the legal brunt of that young man’s death when it should be our government. 

Pill testing is a no-brainer. Prohibition puts our kids at risk. Young people are highly supportive of pill testing as it allows them to make informed choices. Not have their choices made for them. 

We’ve been making choices for our kids since they were born and I think you’ll find they don’t respect our authority that much. We talk to them about the dangers and unacceptability of drug use, but at the same time we continue to imbibe fossil fuels like there’s no tomorrow. 

Hang on, there is no tomorrow. It’s no wonder they want to get out of it. They are the first generation to deal with the impacts of climate change that could potentially see them never make it to 50. 

I’d say our dependence on fossil fuels in the face of our kids’ diminishing future is what I’d call ‘unacceptable’. I’d say that multinationals who continue to invest and expand their climate-change-causing portfolios are occasioning more deaths than a couple of backyard ecstasy manufacturers. Why aren’t we knocking on their doors and arresting a few CEOs?

Coal dealers cause more deaths than drug dealers. So do something for the safety of young people: make fossil fuels illegal and introduce pill testing. 

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  1. Good point, Mandy.

    Hopefully, in a couple of years when these young people vote, they will express their will, & elect representatives that begin to do the right thing as in correct! Not the idiotic Right wing of the conservative parties: including Labor! I think we are in for a few years of political turbulence. If the major parties do not follow the lead of the young, we will see independent members who drag the major parties kicking & screaming to where the voters want them to be.
    I am a baby boomer, with memories of dear old Gough, with all his wonderful policies (such as Medicare, that still exists even after the tampering by the conservatives), as well as his foibles, causing perhaps his ultimate downfall. Hopefully history will not be repeated, & we get a collaborative, forward thinking government, both Federal & State.


  2. Really the main reason so called illicit drugs are regarded bad is that they induce euphoria and a sence of connectivity, the veils are lifted and the grand illusion that the governments of this world try so hard to keep in place melt away.
    Too much fun would not create a tax paying slave to this system, this is why the war of drugs was created, its the war of freedom of expression in actual fact.
    Anyone who wants to try these mind altering substances should also find out if they are healthy enough to do it.
    Sad cases of deaths can be from the fact that there was a hidden heart issue that the person was unaware of.
    As well as pill testing I believe A health check is a very wise initiative to be seriously considered before under going a dose of any substance.

    Medicine for the wrong person can be in fact a deadly poison.

    I hope in my life time that instead of the left or the right of politics the centered grounded movement gains ground and shifts the 2 party system to the middle, which is us, the people of this planet.

    We deserve to live to our full potential and expand our minds and hearts.

    Thank you Mandy for speaking out on this matter.

  3. Heaps of unregulated labs ..around the world..are creating many modified versions of psychedelic substances and selling them to party goers.

    People will take drugs. Drug testing doesn’t seem to modify many people’s behavior. But…regardless of prohibition or not.. drug testing at raves..festivals or nightclubs aims to reduce harm. This must be a good thing.

    After the drug is tested the results show the risks… and can possibly identify ‘safe’ dosages. This can help people decide if they even want to take the drug. Aprox. 20% of people decide mot to take the risk.

    Thanks to testing ….it was discovered by one drug safety testing organization….that at least 40% of the drugs people thought were MDMA…for example, actually contained that substance.

    Fake drugs had bath salts..meth,,,and many other harmful chemicals. The problem in countries without drug safety testing ..is that someone has to die before a warning is put out !

    Both drug testing and drug law reform are needed to help people stay safe and maybe change their drug taking behavior.

  4. I don’t do drugs or drink alcohol so I’m always the odd one out. But that makes me a perfect candidate for keeping an eye out for those possibly suffering adverse reactions, which most people greatly appreciate.

    On that note: the number of adverse reactions to party pills vs the number of adverse reactions to vaccines are both comparatively low. On one hand, we aren’t too concerned about vaccine deaths but on the other hand we make a very big deal out of party-pill deaths claiming “one death is too many”.

    On one hand we say the number of those who had no adverse reaction to vaccines is a positive outcome, but on the other hand we say one, single adverse reaction to party-pills is the worst possible outcome and, even if there is no death, we’re still shouting it from the rooftops.

    The very big difference between the two examples is the ‘voluntary’ factor. Nobody is shoving pills down anybody’s throat, each individual is responsible for his/her own choices and actions. Punishing a group (or another) for the actions of the individual is moral bankruptcy at best.

    The authorities tried catching people with pills before they take them. And people still died. They tried using sniffer dogs. And people still died. They tried turning suspected pill-poppers away from events. And people still died. They tried increasing the punishment to deter others. And people still died.

    The one thing we can all agree on: Until the authorities can successfully get all the dirty drugs off the streets, people will continue to die. Pill-testing is the only method we haven’t tried yet. If people still die then we haven’t won or lost anything. We have simply tried another method.

    As it stands, the government willfully withholds the list of known dangerous substances used in pill production because it suits their purpose: “all drugs are bad, mmmmkaaay!” But this attitude is just as responsible for killing people as the pill itself.

    This information needs to become common knowledge. The more well known it is, the more people will say no to party pills… it really is THAT simple!



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