The ACT leg of Groovin The Moo made history yesterday when it became the first Aussie festival to have pill testing onsite in a bid to prevent drug deaths.
Nearly half of all Australians (42%) have tried an illegal drug – according to the most recent figures from the government's national drugs survey – and more than 1 in 10 has tried ecstasy.
Yesterday, festival-goers were invited to hand in drugs for free testing in a mobile laboratory. It basically involves taking a sample scrape off a pill or a small number of granules which is then analysed by a professional to determine what it contains and the results are handed back.
That person then had the choice about whether or not they wanted to consume it. Bins were provided to chuck the drugs if they chose not to.
The testing happened with the blessing of the ACT police and ACT government. The STA-Safe consortium got the green light to offer free pill testing at the eleventh hour – it's long been a contentious issue among politicians.
On the one hand, they're all about the testing if it could save even one person from a dodgy batch of MDMA. But other pollies are staunchly opposed; worried it could actually promote illicit drugs in the process.
Now the results of the Australian-first are here. And, scarily, two "deadly" substances were found.
One of these substances was n-ethylpentylone, which was responsible for the hospitalisation of 13 people in New Zealand. The other is believed to be NBOMe, which was linked to three deaths in Melbourne last year.
(Also, totally skimming over the fact 50% had shit like paint in them!)
Drug treatment experts at the Noffs Foundation say these tests will save lives.
"The uncontrolled market means the system is stacked against them [people who buy illicit drugs]," explains CEO Matt Noffs. "Pill testing is a fantastic step in the right direction,
"This is about giving them information and advice that can save lives and help them make safer decisions.
"Huge thanks must go to the ACT Police and ACT Government for recognising the dire need to provide more information in order to reduce harm from drugs.
"The pill testing medical service will also provide valuable information to police and health experts about the kind of substances currently being pushed on the uncontrolled market.
"A huge joint effort has made this medical service a reality. The Australian Drug Observatory, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Dancewize Victoria, the ACT Government, ACT police and Groovin the Moo will all be recognised in years to come as having helped save lives by driving this important reform forward."
This certainly could become the new norm for festivals. As the Canberra Times notes, none of the people treated or hospitalised after Groovin the Moo had taken part in pill testing trial.