The issue of pill-testing has been raging in the wake of Australia’s most dangerous summer festival season.
Three festival attendees died, two of them at EDM festival Stereosonic’s stops in Sydney and Adelaide, with dozens hospitalized with overdoses. Despite calls by the live music industry and some health executives, various state governments continue to believe that zero-tolerance is the answer.
The official approach is major police presence with sniffer dogs and strict court sentences. Exasperated medical officials are determined to set up private pill-testing trials at festivals.
Headed by Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation president Dr. Alex Wodak and emergency medical specialist Dr. David Caldicott, the group is crowd-funding and gathering donations to fund test equipment – each festival will cost A$100,000 ($71,000) – and an independent review to assess the effectiveness of the tests. “The idea is to save lives, and I’m prepared to go ahead with it if it saves young lives,” said Wodak, who specialises in addiction and was involved in setting up the first injecting room in Sydney’s red light area Kings Cross.
“It is clear that Australia’s attempts to battle drugs at festivals with sniffer dogs have failed, and people will continue to take drugs
. “The 25-minute test has worked in overseas festivals. Once the doctors and analysts who do the tests explain to people that the drug they bought is talcum powder or something toxic, they will throw it away.”
NSW Premier Mike Baird said he would ask the team to abandon its plans.
“Our police are on the streets every day cracking down on drug dealers infiltrating our young,” he said. “It’s the government’s view not to condone these dealers’ activities.”