PILL TESTING: If saves lives, why are we debating it?
I'VE been around recreational drug takers for most of my teen and adult life.
That previous sentence needs a caveat to say I've smoked a joint twice in my life (sorry Mum) and it's probably never going to happen again, and that is the extent of my drug use. I'd much rather do a few social tequila shots.
When I heard the news a week ago that those attending the Groovin the Moo music festival could have their drugs tested to determine what they contained, I was ecstatic.
I've been around a few drug trips in my time, and I've seen a few go awry from afar. I think it's time we start doing this.
The majority of people taking drugs are festivals like Groovin are not the big issue. The 20-year-old who takes pills when he goes to four festivals a year is not an addict, they are not the bottom-feeders of society. They are social drug takers. They are not the beginning of the end for youth in Australia.
The decision to test drugs at Groovin is the first time I've seen the right approach adopted to drugs in Australia.
The mentality that everyone taking drugs is an addict or the worst of worst people is the reason why the people who overdose or take tainted drugs end up dying because they don't want to tell the paramedics and doctors what they consumed.
We need to be more open about this kind of thing, or we will continue to hear stories about drug-related deaths at festivals.
Giving people the opportunity to have their drugs tested does two things: have conversations with professionals about their drug taking; and make sure they are taking what they think they are taking.
When you look at the reports of what was found in the pills tested at the festival, you recoil at what these people could have consumed.
Eighty-five substances were tested by the Safety and Testing and Advisory Service and the results included mostly pure ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine but it was the unexpected ingredients they discovered that raise alarm bells.
Tests on pills taken into the festival revealed they contained the highly toxic N-Ethylpentylone, which was described as 'absolutely lethal' in an article by the ABC and is responsible for a string of mass overdoses around the world. The chemical can cause circulation problems, lethal heart palpitations and hallucinations.
Following the discovery, those who had arrived with the pills threw them away.
The tests also revealed some of drugs were laced with toothpaste, a muscle rub and Hammerite paint.
I don't know about you, but I'm pretty glad their pills were tested.
There were concerns that the people using the test would be targeted but ACT Police, who were behind the testing, said they wouldn't purposely target people in the area.
That is the kind of reaction we need. We need the police to be supportive of people making the right decisions about drugs. These people are not taking them to die, they are taking them to have a good time. As long as that is done in a safe environment, with help available, I don't see the issue.
I'm certainly not saying a festival is the safe and controlled environment to be doing all kinds of drugs, and I certainly don't think all drugs should be legalised.
But I do think we need to consider the way we treat drugs in this country and come up with more constructive ways to deal with both addiction and social drug use.
We are not helping anyone by waiting until they take the dangerous chemicals mixed in with their drugs before offering help.
Testing drugs can only help. At least then, those who are going to take the drugs know what they're taking.