Australia

Australia's second pill testing trial in Canberra 'overwhelmingly successful'

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Organisers of Australia's second-ever pill testing trial have praised it as a success.

Two pill testing advocacy bodies say a trial of the practice at a music festival in Canberra over the weekend was “overwhelmingly successful”.

Seven dangerous substances containing n-ethylpentylone, a stimulant similar to MDMA, were identified during the trial at Sunday's the Groovin the Moo festival.

MDMA, cocaine, ketamine and methamphetamine were also identified during the 171-sample trial.

After the trial alerted festival-goers to the potential harms of the substances they possessed, the drugs were discarded, trial organisers said.

“The pilot was again overwhelmingly successful by any measure, but particularly by doing everything possible to keep our kids safe,” Pill Testing Australia’s Gino Vumbaca said.

“We helped reduce drug-related harm by giving young people access to a medical service they would not have had otherwise.”

Australia Tests Music Festival-Goers Illicit Drugs For Dangerous Substances
Pill testing facilities at Groovin the Moo 2019 festival, EPIC Showground, April 27, 2019, Canberra. Festival goers can get their illicit drugs tested here.
Getty Images AsiaPac

The trial, which was overseen by over 30 volunteers and an independent evaluation team from the Australian National University, had support from festival promoters and the ACT Government.

It is the second time a pill testing trial has occurred at Canberra’s Groovin the Moo, the first being at the 2018 event.

The ACT is the only state or territory in Australia to allow pill-testing.

“Governments around Australia have a responsibility to reduce the festival death toll with all the available evidence, and that includes pill testing,” Take Control campaign spokesperson Matt Noffs said.

“Pill testing is not a silver bullet but it’s a practical step we can take to get more control of a problem.”

Red, Yellow and White alerts for drug samples tested at Groovin the Moo Festival, Canberra
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 27
Getty Images AsiaPac

The ACT government gave the go-ahead to the controversial trial again after five people died at festivals in NSW over the summer - all between 19 and 23 years old. Another two died at a Queensland festival last week.

Last year, testers found pills contaminated with various substances from paint to milk powder, as well as n-ethylpentylone.

There was speculation before this year's trial it could lead to changes in policy.

The New South Wales and the Victorian governments remain opposed to pill testing, saying allowing it will give people a "green light" to take drugs. Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has also voiced his opposition. 

A Queensland health official was due to travel to the ACT to examine the territory's pill testing trial in light of the recent deaths there.

The Greens are the only federal party to back the policy at the leadership level, with Senator Richard Di Natale saying pill testing was a "crucial part of any effective drug policy". 

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Insight S2019 Ep1 - The Pill Gamble
Insight S2019 Ep1 - The Pill Gamble

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