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Limited pill testing roll-out in New South Wales

Despite European-style pill testing having been outlawed by the New South Wales (NSW) government, thousands of kits will be handed out at Sydney music festivals this summer in a bid to minimise drug-related deaths – albeit in a less effective, do-it-yourself form campaigners warn will be unable to detect potentially dangerous cutting agents.

Just One Life – a joint venture between the Ted Noffs Foundation, Harm Reduction Australia, the Australian Drug Observatory, Students for Sensible Drug Policy Australia and DanceWize – will distribute the kits, which are legal to possess, at NSW’s summer festivals.

Harm-reduction activists had originally pushed had originally pushed for professionally run, clinical drug testing – of the kind in force in Britain, Austria, Spain and the Netherlands – which can detect adulterants and confirm exact dose levels of particular substances. However, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, four festival promoters “strongly in favour” of ‘proper’ pill testing were told by the government and police that, should they allow the practice, it would be seen as a “tacit admission” of drug use at their events.

“These kits give no information about purity … the government has ignored the evidence and expertise available to them”

As a result, the NSW drug testing kits will only be able to confirm if pills contain a particular drug (for example, MDMA).

“These kits give no information about purity,” notable pill-testing advocate David Caldicott tells the Herald, “and one of the biggest problems we have in this summer’s market is very high-dose MDMA”.

Two teenagers suffered overdoses from suspected high-dose MDMA at Groovin’ the Moo in Maitland, NSW, in April.

“It is disappointing,” adds Caldicott. “There is a far better way we could do this. But they [the government] have ignored the evidence and expertise available to them.”


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