Australia

'Compassion' drives support for pill tests

The Ted Noffs Foundation says the pill-testing debate has prompted reflection about young drug users (AAP)

The pill testing debate has become a vehicle for wider society to understand youngsters battling serious drug addiction, an expert has told a Sydney inquiry.

The debate over pill testing at NSW festivals has made the nation more compassionate and understanding of young people with drug problems, an inquiry into ice has heard.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, a firm opponent of pill testing, broadened the scope of the state's special commission of inquiry to examine harm minimisation measures.

The inquiry on Friday heard from rehabilitation and treatment providers including the Ted Noffs Foundation.

Foundation chief executive Matt Noffs and chief operating officer Mark Ferry spoke at length about the challenges facing young people addicted to ice.

One barrier to treatment - social stigma - has consistently been raised by experts and drug users alike during this week's hearings in Sydney.

"The kids come in with so many labels that you're a drug addict, you're a junkie, you're scum, you're all these different things," Mr Ferry told the commission.

Mr Noffs said the high-profile debate about pill testing in NSW had "brought to light" issues about drug use and made people more "compassionate".

"It's very easy to talk about whoever is using ice as an 'other', someone who has brought the problems on themselves," he said.

"The most enlightened of us still, somewhere deep in our psyche, believes the person who is using drugs is doing so because of their own bad choices.

"(But) the more we look at the evidence around trauma we start to understand that it's not the case."

Mr Noffs acknowledged young people using drugs like MDMA at festivals were very different from those who seek treatment for ice addiction.

But, he said, pill testing had become the "greatest story" for illustrating how vulnerable youth turn to drugs as an escape from trauma.

He likened it to having an extra beer on a hard day for the average person.

"For the person who has been traumatised, they will use a drug like ice and get that beautiful rush where all of their problems disappear ... not just for two or three hours but sometimes for a whole day," he said.

"The story of pill testing is helping people say 'This is all of us - all of us go through issues in our life'."

Ms Berejiklian reiterated her opposition to pill testing following another trial at Canberra's Groovin the Moo music festival in late April.

The premier is unlikely to change her stance even if inquiry commissioner Dan Howard SC recommends a trial in NSW.

"Of course I'll read it if they put it up, but I'm not convinced they'll find evidence because there's no such evidence anywhere," Ms Berejiklian said a fortnight ago.

Pill testing struck a chord with the community, Mr Noffs said, because most people acknowledge kids will experiment with drugs.

The inquiry will hold a hearing dedicated to harm minimisation strategies, including pill testing, at a later date, counsel assisting Sally Dowling SC said on Friday.

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