Sydney music festivals to introduce drug testing kits

The war on drugs is crawling to a close.
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Despite opposition from their government, harm reduction advocates are planning on distributing thousands of drug testing kits at large-scale music events in New South Wales (and in particular, Sydney). 

While the kits themselves can only detect the presence of a drug and cannot detect the presence of other harmful components or test the purity or strength of the pills, the kits will be an essential part of ending drug-related deaths at music events 

Harm Reduction Australia president Gino Vumbaca tells Fairfax Media: 

"this is definitely not our preferred option, it is our only available option. We are heading into festival season, we witnessed a number of deaths last year. The unfortunate reality is, tragedies will again occur this summer." 

Facing backlash from the government, the president further continues:

 "When it came to discussing the available options with government, we couldn't even get a foot in the door. We have since decided we cannot sit back idly and do nothing." 

Other people trying to take action in Australia include the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation Dr Alex Wodak and emergency medical specialist Dr David Caldicott, who announced a privately funded drug-testing trial that would interact with event goers and test pills. 

Caldicott further highlights:

"Nobody is endorsing drug use. Nobody is trying to encourage it. What we are trying to to ensure is that young people don't die ... that is the basis for Just One life,"

The original proposal for NSW summer festivals (According to Fairfax Media):

  • Privately funded, professionally run clinical pill-testing trial at music festivals.
  • Sophisticated, state-of-the-art laboratory equipment providing precise breakdowns of chemical ingredients contained in a particular product.
  • Staffed by doctors, counsellors and peer interviewers who can provide better information and warnings to festivalgoers so they can make informed choices.
  • While their respective governments have provided no legal endorsement, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, France – and now England – are among the European countries operating such initiatives.
  • Blocked by NSW government.

The "Band-Aid" alternative (According to Fairfax Media):

  • Harm reduction campaigners to make drug-testing kits available at NSW festivals.
  • The do-it-yourself kits are the same as those used by law enforcement agencies and identify the presence, or absence, of a particular drug such as ecstasy.
  • It cannot confirm dose levels of a particular drug.
  • Unable to provide information on other potentially dangerous cutting agents contained in a pill.
  • The kit itself is not illegal to possess.

The war on drugs in festivals across the city is proving to be a flawed system. Instead of helping prevent drug-related deaths and ensuring the safety of event-goers, people instead have chosen to ban drugs, which has proven time and time again is an impossibility. While this seems like one step in the right direction for NSW, we're hoping to see further changes in the way the governments across the globe choose to handle the issue of drugs in partying. 

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