Pill Testing Via Emergency Services should be Considered in Victoria, Parliamentary Report Finds

Ecstacy pills on a table top.

An inquiry into drug law reform in Victoria has called for “back-of-house” pill testing at music festivals to be done by members of the emergency services so they can find out exactly what the substance was that caused harm.

A state parliamentary committee investigating laws and regulation of illicit drugs released the mammoth 680-page report with 50 recommendations.

It proposed authorities test substances so they could treat patients suffering adverse reactions like overdoses, and issue alerts to the public to prevent other incidents.

The report said there was strong support for pill testing in the evidence given to the inquiry.

But it stopped short of recommending drug checking be available to the public as a safety measure.

“A key concern of the committee regarding drug checking is that it may lead to a perception among individuals who use drugs that, once the substances are tested, they are safe to consume,” it said.

“A related concern is that drug-checking services might be misused by drug suppliers, by using information provided by drug-checking services to promote ‘the safety’ of their product.”

The Victorian Government has consistently rejected calls for pill testing, saying there was no safe level at which illicit substances can be taken.

In January nine people were hospitalised after overdosing at a dance party at Festival Hall.

The University of Canberra in the ACT has announced it would support a pill-testing trial to take place at the Groovin the Moo festival in April.

‘A very good first step’: Fiona Patten

The inquiry was initiated by Reason MP Fiona Patten, who conceded she would have liked the recommendations to go further.

“This report is a bipartisan report,” she said.

“And the fact that we got 49 recommendations shows the good collaborative work we were able to do.

“I would have possibly liked it to be bolder.”

Ms Patten said back-of-house drug checking was an important step.

“Having something at the back of house where emergency workers can find out exactly the substance that has caused harm at that event will start the process for early warning systems and is a very good first step,” she said.

But Greens MP Nina Springle said it was frustrating the Government continued to resist pill testing.

“We will not see a decline in overdoses until we put harm minimisation measures like this into action,” she said.

“How many more people need to overdose before the Labor Government understands the current approach is not working?”

The Minister for Mental Health, Martin Foley, said the Government would respond in coming months.

“These are serious and complex issues and we will give this report and its findings the consideration it deserves,” a spokesman said.

The Victorian Government has already committed to a trial of a safe injecting room in inner Melbourne.

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