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Oz pill-testing trial discovers deadly adulterants

The potential dangerous stimulant n-ethylpentylone and designer psychedelic NBOMe were among the substances detected at a pioneering trial at GTM Canberra

By Jon Chapple on 30 Apr 2018

GTM 2018

Tkay Maidza at GTM 2018

image © Wade Whitington/Groovin the Moo

Australia’s first pill-testing trial, held at Groovin the Moo in Canberra on Sunday, has been hailed a success by the government of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), with around 130 festivalgoers believed to have used the facility.

The trial was facilitated by the STA-SAFE Consortium, a group backed by the NGO Harm Reduction Australia, which was given the go-ahead by festival promoter Cattleyard Productions late last week.

Mixed reactions as GTM pill testing to go ahead

“This was the first pill testing trial to be carried out in Australia and enabled people who decided to take drugs at the festival to make more informed choices. Pill testing analyses the contents of drugs and can help individuals avoid taking unknown and potentially harmful substances,” says ACT health minister Meegan Fitzharris.

“I understand from STA-SAFE that approximately 130 patrons used the facility with around 85 tests conducted.”

According to STA-SAFE, the majority of drugs tested were MDMA, although several samples also contained potentially dangerous adulterants – mirroring a similar trial at the larger Secret Garden Party festival in the UK in 2016, where 80 “substances of concern” were identified, including insecticides and anti-malarials.

The trial was the first time n-ethylpentylone and the NBOMe had been detected in Canberra

Of particular concern at Groovin the Moo (GTM), says Fitzharris, were a “novel NBOMe” – a new family of hallucinogenics nicknamed ‘N-bombs’ – and n-ethylpentylone, a substituted cathinone believed to be responsible for a number of deaths. It was the first time both drugs had been detected in the ACT.

The trial also found traces of toothpaste, spray paint and a muscle rub, arnica, STA-SAFE’s Dr David Caldicott tells ABC Radio Canberra.

“As the first trial to be conducted in Australia, I know that other jurisdictions will be looking on with interest to see the results of the evaluation,” concludes Fitzharris. “We look forward to releasing the evaluation once complete.”

A statement from STA-SAFE says its service was “very well received by festivalgoers, and the trial will provide a very important range of information which will be provided to key stakeholders in the ACT”.


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