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Australia's First Pill-Testing Trial to Take Place at Groovin the Moo

After a similar trial at a different festival was scrapped last year, Groovin the Moo's Canberra leg will offer drug-checking services.
By Sarah Ward
April 28, 2018
By Sarah Ward
April 28, 2018

For the first time in Australia, music festival attendees will be able to check their illicit substances for dangerous ingredients, with pill testing set to take place at this weekend's Groovin the Moo in Canberra.

The ACT Government has approved the trial as a harm reduction strategy, aiming to minimise overdoses and other adverse effects resulting from party drugs. It comes six months after a previous attempt to implement pill testing was scrapped — with approval given for the city's Spilt Milk festival last year, only for organisers to pull out before the event.

At Groovin the Moo's Canberra leg on April 29, a mobile laboratory will be set up at the fest's University of Canberra site. Run by the Safety and Testing and Advisory Service at Festivals and Events (STA-SAFE) — a consortium of non-government organisations lead by Harm Reduction Australia — it'll be manned by volunteer medical staff and analytical chemists, who'll test small samples of each pill, interpret the results and give festival-goers the details. Advice and counselling about the risks involved in consuming the substances will also be given, and folks will have the option of disposing of their pills in a bleach-filled amnesty bin.

Anyone using the service will remain anonymous, the ABC reports, but data will be collected about the number of patrons attending the service, how many tests are conducted, how many people discard their drugs and the chemical content detected in each sample, all to help shape any future pill-testing operations.

Drug checking has been used overseas since the '90s, and is currently available in around 20 countries across Europe, the Americas and New Zealand, but remains a controversial topic in Australia. Calls for Groovin the Moo to offer pill testing have been circulating for the past two years, after a 15-year-old collapsed from an overdose at the fest's Maitland event in 2016.

Image: Jack Toohey. 

Published on April 28, 2018 by Sarah Ward
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