Pathways' position on pill testing:

We have recently been asked to publicly comment on our position regarding a growing discussion in the Tasmanian community around pill testing at music festivals. As a prominent Tasmanian provider of alcohol & drug rehabilitation services, we have a valid voice on the matter.

Pathways is in favour of any credible method of reducing or eliminating illicit drug intake. Our program, which is ever improving, follows an evidence based rehab methodology. We know first-hand what addictions do to people’s lives, and their families.

While there is some credible evidence to suggest that pill testing at music festivals and the like can reduce the number of hospital admissions due to party drug overdose, the total evidence is not settled. Case in point: One study we have reviewed said that since the introduction of pill testing, Portugal has had zero deaths at music festivals, and research from Austria found that 50 per cent of those who used the drug testing service believed that the results influenced their drug taking behaviour. People think pill testing will inform users of dangerous impurities in their tablets that could lead to their death, but research has found no Australian deaths from impurities to date. Impurities aren’t the issue it seems, it’s the drug MDMA (the main ingredient in the average ecstasy pill) which is killing people. The very drug giving them their high, is the drug that is killing them. So who at a pill testing booth has the authority to determine which amount of MDMA use is safe, and which is not?

Drug Free Australia informed all Territory, State and Federal politicians last September and November that it is the ecstasy (MDMA) itself which is killing most Australian ecstasy users, and noted that one study showed that 62% of deaths were from ecstasy used at home with only a small percentage of deaths at festivals, Raves and clubs.

But is saving one death from MDMA use at a music festival money well spent? Probably yes. But these are not easy questions for politician’s to answer who are accountable for the way they spend public money.

Maybe pill testing can work, but there are concerns that its focus is too narrow, looks at party drug use only and doesn’t address the wider community use of MDMA where the majority of overdoses come from.

Pathways Tasmania is currently participating in informed discussions with industry peers and experts in the field and will make a more definite statement at a future date.