'This Doesn't Need To Be The Summer Of Festival Deaths': Pleas For Drug Reform After Another Death
A family is mourning the death of their 22-year-old son from a suspected drug overdose at a music festival, as debate returns to pill testing.
Brisbane rugby player Josh Tam had driven to the NSW Central Coast to attend the Lost Paradise festival along with around 20 friends.
On the second night of the four-day event, he was rushed to Gosford Hospital and died a short time later.
“It’s really horrible for someone to have lost their lives, especially in such a situation where everyone is trying to have a good time,” festival goer Dominque Falco told 10 News First.
Four others were taken to hospital after ingesting an "unknown" substance at the music festival, which advertises itself as a "drug free event". Two of them were discharged while two others remain in a stable condition.
Tam's death is the fourth at a music festival in NSW since September, and has reignited calls for the government to approve a pill testing system.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is refusing to budge, and on Sunday reiterated her government's opposition on the issue -- despite it being supported by medical professionals and drug addiction experts.
“There is no such thing as a safe illegal drug and I urge everyone who is attending a festival to stay safe and think carefully about the decisions they make around drugs," the premier said.
“I am devastated to hear another life has been lost at a music festival. I extend my deepest sympathies to the young man’s family and friends.”
The national campaign for drug law reform, 'Take Control', has pleaded with the NSW Premier to reconsider her stance.
"As always, we must be respectful of the family and remember that every single life is precious,” Ted Noffs Foundation CEO Matt Noffs said.
“This doesn’t need to be the summer of festival deaths.
"We have doctors and drug treatment experts standing by to make live music and festivals safer for our kids with pill testing."
Opposition Leader Michael Daley said his party would consider allowing testing recreational drugs at music festivals if elected in March.
“Pill testing should not be off the table. I know the Premier wants it off the table, but that’s not the way to go,” Daley said on Sunday.
“Just saying no is not the answer. We can’t … close the door on some possible solutions.”
More than 180 people and almost 100 vehicles were searched during a drug dog operation at Lost Paradise. Three people were charged with drug supply, including a 23-year-old man allegedly caught with 60 MDMA capsules and six bags of cocaine.
In September, the Berejiklian government appointed an expert panel to deliver recommendations following the deaths of two young people at Defqon music festival.
They included a new offence for dealing drugs that cause death, and new licensing regulations.
But these will not be in place until the Australia Day weekend -- and not before several festivals planned for NSW, including Falls Festival.
Revellers attending the Falls festival events in Lorne, Marion Bay and Byron Bay were sent text messages on Sunday urging them to be cautious of a dangerous drug currently in circulation around the country.
At this time, it is only being referred to as an orange pill.
Meanwhile, police are on high alert ahead of Field Day, a music festival taking place in Sydney on New Year's Day.
Police Operation Commander Detective Chief Inspector Stuard Bell said anyone who tried to bring in illegal drugs would be caught.
"Those thinking of bringing substances into the event are reminded there will be uniformed and plain-clothed police patrolling the festival, which will include the use of drug-detection dogs,” he said.
“Not only are they illegal, prohibited drugs can be extremely harmful to your health, and are potentially life-threatening, particularly combined with alcohol.
“We repeat these warnings every year and will continue to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of all festival-goers."
Last year, more than 160 people were arrested and charged with the possession of illicit drugs.
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