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Pill Testing Set To Be Rolled Out Across All NSW Music Festivals, And Sanity Prevails

It’s about education, not fear.

After another big study and inquest into a topic that has been well covered, it looks like pill testing is here to stay. While it’s not set in stone, the rumours out there are that the NSW coroner Harriet Grahame will recommend pill testing to be introduced and rolled out across the state. Grahame’s full findings and suggestions will be released on November 8th, 2019 – so keep those eyes peeled.

It could be a bloody huge moment for young people and general drug use in this country. Of course we know that NSW Premier Gladys B isn’t a fan, and we’re counting the minutes until she releases a statement against pill testing (we’ve already seen her cabinet minister Andrew Constance slam the potential pill testing suggestion).

And we know the key points from both sides on this argument, so I don’t really want to repeat them too much. But rather focusing on the point that this decision is not a solution – but rather a safety measure that will save lives. Despite what Mr Constance will have you believe.

Part of the rumoured suggestion from the coroner will include lower police presence and that sniffer dogs be scrapped. A pretty bold statement if it does all go through as suggested, and one that will undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers in government.

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And here’s the thing right, at the top level of substance abuse we (and countries around the world) have services that will help you. Drug abuse counselling, AA groups, rehab facilities – it goes on. And the genuine thought there is we want to help these people overcome the strife.

But there is a gap between high abuse and the infrequent recreational use – the category that arguably many music festival regulars might fall in. So where is the support here? Rather than the help offered at a critical abuse level, we see widespread fear tactics – especially at music festivals.

In Europe, pill testing (or ‘drug checking’) is used in the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain Switzerland and Austria to name a few – with increasingly positive results. As explained in a 2017 report, one of those real wins was that it helped authorities establish a bit of contact with an emerging group of drug users; and explain to them some of the dangers associated. So they don’t find themselves in further trouble down the line.

And it’s about just that, educating young people about what’s in drugs, your tolerance and the dangers. It’s not a solution to the drug debate, it’s not trying to be, it’s simply a step in the right direction when it comes to safety. In a recent English study, one in five drug samples at a festival were not the actual drug that people said to be holding. That’s 20% for crying out loud.

From that study itself, 20% of people who tested their pills decided to throw them out, with a further 16% moderating their consumption. Meanwhile, 66% who bought a ‘missold’ product, disposed of it. And that’s my point – we need to start making a real damn attempt at trying to educate and teach people about drugs, rather than breed them into fear.

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