Two weeks ago, 31 revellers at Melbourne’s Electric Parade Music Festival overdosed on a dangerous batch of so-called ‘party drugs’. I say so-called because, despite the fact that these 31 individuals would later be hospitalised in critical conditions by what health professionals have since identified as GHB, the substances were presumably taken under that unfortunate misnomer: as party drugs. That these same drugs might incite a ‘mass overdose’ and see twenty-one young festival-goers fighting for their lives probably never occurred to any one of them– or, if it did, the odds must have appeared small enough to make the risk worthwhile.
A few days later, on February 21, Essential Media conducted a poll gauging the attitudes of Australians toward professional pill-testing services– services that would allow revellers like those at Electric Parade, or those in Melbourne’s southside clubs where around 20 other people overdosed only a week earlier, to examine and identify exactly what they were putting in their bodies before it put them in the emergency room.
The poll concluded a majority push in favour of pill-testing, with some 57% of Australians supporting the introduction and implementation of the service. Conversely, only 13% of those polled were opposed to the idea.
It’s proving a hard pill to swallow for Victorian health minister Martin Foley, however, whom has said that the state government has no plans to roll out the potentially life-saving measures.
The general attitude of naysayers seems to be that above-board drug testing is equivalent to concession, tolerance and even encouragement of wilfully illicit behaviour. President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation Dr Alex Wodak stresses that this is a fallacious and, ultimately, harmful stance to take on the matter.
“Nowhere else in public health policy do we say ‘you are much better off being ignorant than you are being informed’” he said in a recent conversation with The Guardian. Indeed, the very logic of “You should’ve known better” is ironic, in a sense, when spouted from the mouths of anti-drug-testing conservatives whom refuse to accept that education and information might in fact be the best step forward.
The Greens party have launched an online petition pushing for the rollout of pill-testing services across the state of Victoria. Read the petition statement below, and add your name here.
“Thousands of Victorians this festival season will be taking party drugs and putting themselves at greater risk of overdose or death as they don’t know what’s in each pill or powder.
“Each year we see multiple cases of people dying needlessly, despite huge resources being funnelled into law enforcement, such as drug sniffer dogs at festivals.
“The war on drugs is not working! We know that despite our tough law and order approach to drug taking, Australia has one of the highest drug taking rates in the world.
“We need to focus on keeping people who do take drugs safe from deadly harm. Pill testing has been happening in Europe for years and has been proven to lower the amount of drug use and keep people alive.
“Medical, scientific and legal experts agree that pill testing should be implemented immediately.”
Feature image: VICE