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Is pill testing just for festivals?

At First Step, we have the privilege of curating amazing conversations with truly inspirational people!

At our recent Thought Leadership Event, we got to work with Sione Crawford, CEO of Harm Reduction Victoria and drug law reform warrior, Dr Monica Barratt (RMIT, NDARC/UNSW, Bluelight, The Loop) and Dr Annie Madden (Harm Reduction Australia, Pill Testing Australia).

In terms of the discussion, 'Is drug testing just for festivals?', we couldn’t pick three people with more academic expertise, relevant lived experience, time in the trenches and the bruises to show for it!

First issue, what is drug testing or pill checking? In essence, we’re talking about providing a service that can analyse the contents of a pill, powder, liquid, crystal or other non-pharmaceutical grade substance to see what it contains and hopefully also how much. The results of the test are shared with the owner and the remainder of the drug is returned to them. The motivation is to provide crucial information and harm reduction advice to the individual intending to use the drug with the goal of reducing or eliminating harm from that drug.

All members of the panel want drug testing to be readily, conveniently, freely available to all people who use drugs whenever they need it.

So, why are so many in the Alcohol and Other Drug community pushing hard for pill testing at festivals? Well, basically, it’s to get that particular intervention over the line and to get a foot in the governmental door to allow/support this activity (saving lives along the way). Should that victory be won, we can then advocate passionately for broader access and possible regulation of these drugs which would eliminate the need for drug testing in the first place.

We looked at what’s happening interstate (particularly Canberra which is the most advanced on this issue with CanTEST), and overseas at some community-based models.

While there is great frustration in this space, there is also hope. And with recent wins, who knows what might be possible.

You can view a recording of the event here:


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