WA urged to pill-test

The State Government is being urged by doctors and public health experts to have pill-testing at music festivals and fixed sites, after another State agreed to run a trial.

The Royal Australian College of GPs said this week that the decision by Victorian authorities to run an 18-month trial of drug-testing would help to save lives.

But the call to WA might fall on deaf ears, after the State Government ruled out any change of policy earlier this year, saying it would not be allowing pill-testing at music festivals, despite a recent surge in drug-related hospitalisations across the country.

This week, Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan and Minister for Mental Health Ingrid Stitt announced the State’s pill-testing trial, which would include mobile and fixed site services.

RACGP Victoria chair Dr Anita Munoz said it was a big step forward and would save lives, and drug testing had been proven to work in other jurisdictions.

“A drug testing trial will enable people to understand what they are actually taking, including young people experimenting with illicit drugs who have their whole lives ahead of them,” she said.

“Drug testing sites are also a great way of engaging with those who are using illicit drugs, including people in their teens and early 20s at music festivals and other similar events. Trained staff at these services can talk to them free of judgment about why they are using drugs and outline the risks involved.

“This is a victory for common sense and sound policy over tired rhetoric and a ‘war-on-drugs’ mentality that gets us nowhere. Alcohol and other drug use, whether it be illicit drug use at music festivals or people experiencing severe opioid dependence on drugs such as heroin, is a health issue.”

Not condoning drugs

She rejected the claim that drug testing condoned illicit drug use, arguing it was a sensible harm reduction measure.

“There is no use pretending that people don’t use illicit drugs, it is a reality of life. So, let’s focus on minimising harm and keeping people as safe as possible.”

RACGP addiction medicine spokesperson Dr Marguerite Tracy said it was further evidence that momentum was building around Australia.

“In March this year, we welcomed Queensland becoming the first Australian jurisdiction to institute an ongoing drug testing service,” she said.

“The ACT has also successfully conducted drug testing at events such as music festivals and now had a fixed pill testing site.

“So, it is time for other states and territories to follow suit. Every day we delay is another day that people can experience overdoses and be hospitalised, or worse.”

When the WA Government was quizzed about pill-testing in January this year, a spokesperson confirmed there were no plans to change its position, but the government would continue to monitor pill-testing research, including the outcomes of the ACT’s pilot.