Pill Testing Saves Lives

OPEN LETTER IN SUPPORT OF PILL TESTING

AT GROOVIN THE MOO CANBERRA

TO: Ms. Kathryn Holloway, CEO Cattleyard Promotions

Dear Ms Holloway,

We write to you to seek your support for a pill testing trial at Groovin The Moo Canberra 2018, to minimise harms from drug use by festival goers.

For too long, our young people have been at risk from unknown and contaminated drugs. Each year, we are seeing young people being hospitalised, or worse, after consuming contaminated or unknown drugs at clubs and music festivals.

There’s no silver bullet to addressing the dangers of illicit drugs, but we can listen to the experts who are calling for a health focused approach to minimising their harms. Pill testing has been shown to be effective when it has been introduced overseas. Research shows that pill-testing helps young people avoid the dangers of unknown and contaminated drugs, and provides an opportunity for drugs to be disposed of before lives are put at risk.

Informed by advice from experts and using laboratory grade equipment, a pill testing trial at your festival has the support of ACT Health and ACT Policing, and the ACT Government has given its support after an extensive risk assessment process and receipt of the relevant legal advice.

This is an opportunity for Groovin The Moo to be a leader in the festival industry by supporting an evidence-based approach and allowing a pill testing trial at this year’s Canberra festival. We know that there is significant support for pill testing amongst young Australians, with a recent survey showing that more than 85% of respondents supported free on-site pill testing being available, and more than 80% believing that it would help drug users seek help to reduce harm.

Pill testing has many benefits. It can help identify contaminated substances, provide an opportunity for health and drug education to an at-risk population, increase awareness of circulating harmful substances and allow for the use of early warning systems to keep young people informed about what they are taking.

Allowing pill testing at Groovin The Moo Canberra 2018 will help make the festival safer for those who attend, allowing them to have a great day out and come home safe.

We urge you to support this important public health initiative, and in doing so, potentially save lives at this year’s event.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned:

Shane Rattenbury MLA
ACT Greens Spokesperson for Drug Law Reform

Artists from Groovin the Moo

 

Ocean Alley

Cosmo’s Midnight

Moaning Lisa

Drug Reform & Health Stakeholders

 

Gavin Findlay
Vice-President, Music ACT

Tim Hollo
Chief Executive Officer, Green Music Australia

Bill Bush
President, Families & Friends for Drug Law Reform

Marion McConnell
Secretary, Families & Friends for Drug Law Reform

Chris Gough
Manager, Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation & Advocacy (CAHMA) and The Connection

Michael Moore AM
Chief Executive Office, Public Health Association of Australia
President, World Federation of Public Health Associations

Susan Helyar
Director, ACT Council of Social Service Inc. (ACTCOSS)

Will Tregoning
Executive Director, Unharm

Matt Noffs
Chief Executive Officer, Noffs Foundation

Dr Alex Wodak AM
Director, Australia21

Lyn Stephens
Director, Australia21

Rebecca Bunn
Director and Community Engagement Manager, Australia21

Deborah Rice
Director and Communications Manager, Australia 21

Ann Quinn
Executive Officer, Australia21

Dr Monica Barratt
Research Fellow, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre

David McDonald
Director, Social Research & Evaluation Pty Ltd

did you know?

PILLS CAN KILL

Australian ecstasy pills have the highest levels of unknown ingredients in the world, and are highest in the toxic substance para-methoxyamphetamine (PMA), also known as “Dr Death”. Across Australia, hundreds of people die as a result of drug overdoses from a range of drugs every year.

DRUG SNIFFER DOGS DON'T WORK

Drug sniffer dogs are incorrect 75% of the time, and can cause more harm than good. Panic upon seeing dogs can lead people to consume all their drugs at once, increasing the risk of overdose. This is exactly how 23-year-old James Munro died in 2013 at a Sydney music festival.

N

PILL TESTING WORKS

Pill testing is successfully taking place in many European countries already. In Austria, two-thirds of drug users who were informed by a government-funded pill testing service of potential toxic harms decided not to consume their drugs, and told their friends not to either.

dispelling the myths

WON’T PILL TESTING JUST ENCOURAGE DRUG USE?

No. Pill testing programs in Europe have reduced consumption of potentially harmful drugs. Users overwhelmingly choose not to consume a drug when alerted to the risks related to its strength or contents.

WON’T IT BE TOO HARD TO CHANGE THE LAW?

Actually, a change of law is not even required. The ACT Government already has the power to authorise bodies to do pill testing. Police already exercise discretion by not targeting people attending drug and alcohol services, because they understand the benefits they provide.

DON’T PEOPLE ALREADY KNOW THE RISKS?

Our current system puts such a huge focus on the morality of drug taking, that there is little room for discussion of the science. With new illicit substances constantly appearing on the market, people often have no idea what they’re taking. Pill testing provides a legitimate space for people to learn about the health risks they face and get support if needed.

ISN’T PILL TESTING INACCURATE?

While the kits you can by online provide limited information, a proper pill testing program involves trained chemists using laboratory grade equipment. This process is very accurate and provides a complete analysis of all the substances in a pill or powder.

WON’T PILL TESTING BE TOO EXPENSIVE?

The cost of laboratory grade pill testing is negligible at just a few hundred thousand for a year-round program. This investment would create huge savings in our healthcare system, as party drugs cause countless overdoses each year, as well as numerous fatalities.

what do the experts think?

Dr David Caldicott –Toxicologist, ANU College of Medicine

“By presenting consumers with simple facts about what’s in their substances, we can engage in a discussion that is based on the science of the hazards, rather than the morality of the hazards.”

Mick Palmer – Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner  

“It makes absolute sense to try to test the quality of the drugs people are taking.”

Nicholas Cowdery – Former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions

“Australia should introduce drug checking, as I would call it, at all public events where it is highly likely that people are going to be bringing drugs.”