Music festivals are meant to be fun. They’re normally filled with laughter, sun, slow mornings, and long nights singing along to tunes with your friends. But this is not always the reality. There have been 5 drug-related deaths at music festivals in NSW since September. That’s 5 young people whose lives have been unnecessarily cut short. The NSW public has been vocal in their support of pill testing following these tragedies – however, the NSW government is ardently against pill testing. Last Saturday, on the 19th of January, protestors in NSW rallied together for the introduction of pill testing at music festivals, in an attempt to get the government to change their minds about this issue.

“If there was a way in which we could ensure that lives were saved through pill testing we would consider it – but there is no evidence provided to the government on that” – NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

Groovin The Moo in 2018 employed pill testing, with positive results and 2 lives saved. Image source: Daisy Hofstetter

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has claimed that there has been “no evidence provided to the government” that pill testing would save lives at music festivals. She also claimed that pill testing gave drug users “a false sense of security”, explaining that the government would consider implementing pill testing if they were shown evidence that it saved lives. So Premier Berejiklian wants evidence and refuses to act until it is provided to her? Well, Premier – here is your evidence:

Pill Testing Saves Lives

Pill testing was trialled at Groovin the Moo in Canberra in 2018. 85 substances were tested at the festival. Some pure, high-quality ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine were found. But the greatest discovery was 2 highly toxic chemicals in pills. The lethal pills were disposed of – and because of pill testing, 2 people’s lives were saved.

Pill testing has also been shown to change the black market where the illicit drugs are sold. Drugs that are publicly identified as dangerous, have been found to leave the black market. This means that fewer people will consume dangerous drugs, and fewer people will overdose or die – because they simply will not have access to these toxic drugs.

Pill Testing Does Not Create An Increase In Drug Use

Drug policy expert Professor Alison Ritter told the ABC that pill testing “doesn’t produce an increase in drug use” – in fact, it’s the opposite, “people make different choices based on the results of testing – some choose to put their drugs into an amnesty bin, others choose to take half as much as they thought they would”, she explained.

Pill Testing Changes Behaviour

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, at ACT’s Groovin The Moo in 2018 where pill testing was trialled, 42% of individuals who had their pills tested said they would change their drug-related behaviour following the pill testing, 12% of people said that they would take fewer drugs and 18% said they would not use any illicit drugs at the festival.

“There is good evidence to show that people who have submitted their drugs for testing are quite likely to act on this information given to them as a result of having the testing done” – according to President of the RACP’s Addiction Medicine chapter, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones

A key part of pill testing is that it creates the opportunity for trained medical professionals to give music festival goers advice and information about taking drugs, and all of the risks that are involved. This sort of information is incredibly important, especially as people will take illicit drugs at festivals whether the government likes it or not. Isn’t it best for everyone involved to have pill testing available, so people can make informed, healthy choices? Also, maybe so no one else dies at a music festival?

So Premier Berejiklian, I ask you – is this enough evidence for you? Is this enough evidence for you to employ pill testing which will save the lives of young people? Pill testing is not something that encourages illicit drug use, it is something that has saved lives, and will continue to save lives. I encourage you and other politicians nation-wide to embrace pill testing, and the decreasing number of deaths at music festivals will speak for itself.