Out of touch on pill testing

By Shepparton News

Another youngster needlessly dies at a music festival; another discussion about pill testing ensues.

It seems as if we have seen this pattern take place time and time again during the past few years.

But are we actually making any progress towards reducing harm to Australia’s young people?

Or are we going to go in circles while lives continue being lost?

The debate was pushed to the forefront of national media again this week after Alexandra Ross-King, 19, fell ill and died after taking an unknown illicit substance at FOMO musical festival in Sydney.

An ABC report said six young people were believed to have died from taking drugs at Australian music festivals in the past five months.

While I thought perhaps Ross-King’s death would prompt NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to change her hard-line stance on the introduction of pill testing at music festivals, it seemingly did not.

Ms Berejiklian previously entered the debate following the deaths of two festival-goers at Defqon.1 in September last year.

For many, the deaths ignited a plea to introduce pill testing, and Ms Berejiklian took the opportunity to vow to shut the festival down, despite the fact the tragic deaths took place after a successful pill testing trial at Canberra’s Groovin the Moo in May.

Here two dangerous batches of illicit drugs were identified, potentially saving two lives, but Ms Berejiklian claims she needs to see more evidence the testing actually saves lives.

The fact that she was responding to middle-aged white man David Koch of all people, who took a hard-line approach during the interview on Sunrise on Monday morning, demonstrates just how out of touch she is.

Kochie appeared visibly frustrated with her responses and it was incredibly surprising to see the presenter disagree with Ms Berejiklian’s solution to simply tell young people not to take illicit substances.

All Ms Berejiklian needs to do is interact with any young person in the country to know that telling them not to do something is likely to make them do it.

While I have always agreed that pill testing would certainly reduce harm and overdoses, it was enlightening to hear from a toxicologist regarding their position should they provide the test on WIN Network’s The Project this week.

They expressed their concern for the many number of hypothetical outcomes should they find a life-threatening or dangerous substance in someone’s illicit drugs at a musical festival.

While they can provide them with information; and information is power; they cannot ensure that that person will not take the drug. They can not ensure they will not on-sell it. And they certainly cannot ensure that it will be disposed of correctly, creating the potential for another festival-goer to pick it up and consume it.

It is quite disheartening, however, that the Victorian Government implemented a safe injecting room last year to reduce harm to drug addicts and work to remove overdose victims from the street.

It does not bare thinking that the government is willing to protect people with perhaps life-long and severe drug addictions yet they are not willing to do the same for a 19-year-old with their whole life ahead of them who is simply looking to experiment.

Tara Whitsed is a News reporter.