Here Are Just Some Of The Experts Who Back Pill Testing
While still stubbornly opposing pill testing at festivals, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian appears to have extended the invitation to experts to prove her wrong.
"If there was a way in which we could ensure that lives were saved through pill testing we'd consider it," she told reporters on Wednesday.
"But there's no evidence provided to the government on that."
The comment came as she repeated her beliefs that pill testing would give young people a false sense of security, after a week where two young people died and more were hospitalised after taking drugs at music festivals.
But Dr David Caldicott, an emergency physician and one of the leaders of Australia's first pill testing trial, said efforts to educate the premier on the issue have been fruitless. A state government inquiry into how to protect young people from drug issues was expressly forbidden from examining the idea of pill testing, at the premier's request.
"It's terribly hard to provide her with evidence if she sets up an inquiry where she refuses to meet and talk with any of the experts," he told 10 daily.
“If she genuinely wants to have a conversation about how pill testing works, we have been waiting to have that conversation for quite some time.”
Caldicott is just one of numerous experts in fields from harm minimisation and drug reform to police and medicine who have said pill testing should be considered to reduce drug problems at music festivals.
"There's not really that many experts you can find anywhere in the world who thinks that this is a bad idea," Caldicott said.
Here are just some of the experts who have called on governments to at least consider the plan.
Australian Medical Association
The AMA said it "would like to see pill testing at festivals".
The peak body for Australian doctors has called for medically-supervised trials, to determine its role in dealing with the harms of illicit drugs, as noted on Wednesday by federal MP Kerryn Phelps -- herself a past president of the AMA.
"The actual episode of testing the pill is not just saying: 'Oh, that’s an okay drug. You can take that'," current AMA president Dr Tony Bartone told Sky News in September 2018.
"It’s about an opportunity to try and inform the person, or persons involved, about the dangerous consequences and try to get an opportunity to give them education and access to rehabilitation in terms of trying to reduce their drug dependency."
AMA Tasmania made the same call earlier in May, following the first Australian example of pill testing at Canberra's Groovin The Moo festival.
The Royal Australian College Of General Practitioners
Dr Hester Wilson, GP and Chair of the RACGP Addiction Medicine Specific Interested network, said arguments that pill testing will give a "green light" to drugs are out of touch.
"Pill testing saves lives, that’s the bottom line," she told newsGP.
"The reality is we know that people do take pills. People don’t want to take stuff that’s going to harm them, they want to have a good time. Let’s allow people to check their pills so they can be sure that they’re safe."
Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer
Outside of the medical profession, former AFP boss Mick Palmer has been a staunch advocate of pill testing, informed by a career in law enforcement.
"Pill testing is not a silver bullet," Palmer said.
"But it's a proven and positive way to help prevent this kind of tragedy, has majority support from Australians and must be at least trialled on a pilot basis. If it doesn't work, then stop it."
Palmer told 10 daily in October the NSW review into festival safety was a missed opportunity to explore new methods of harm minimisation.
"I'm very disappointed that intelligent people came up with solutions that missed out on these measures," he said.
"That to me is a big flaw in what could have been good."
National Drug And Alcohol Research Centre
Director of NDARC's Drug Policy Modelling Program Professor Alison Ritter -- an internationally recognised drug policy scholar -- can break down the evidence in favour of pill testing with the best of them.
"Australia is internationally applauded for our harm-minimisation approach to drugs but we have failed to introduce pill testing, even though it is an intuitively appealing strategy," she wrote in The Conversation in 2014.
"Australia should run a trial of pill testing and assess its benefits and harms so we can then make an informed choice about this intervention."
Professor Ritter explained how from changing the black market to changing behaviour, pill testing has a long European history of success.
The death of a 20-year-old man at Victoria's Beyond the Valley music festival on Tuesday marked the fifth drug-related death at an Australian festival in as many months.
As a result, the call from both experts in the field and the public for a consideration of pill testing has only become louder.