Top drug experts want to make pill testing standard at major events.
Top drug experts want to make pill testing standard at major events.

Drug strategy to make Schoolies safer

THE nation's top drug experts will make a personal plea to Health Minister Steven Miles to allow pill testing at Schoolies, saying it will save lives.

The experts will speak at a major drug, alcohol and mental health reform conference in Brisbane next week, arguing that forensic testing for drugs is a must at Schoolies to prevent toxic poisoning and accidental overdose.

They say pill testing units need to be part of a forward-thinking drug practice for Queensland - units where young people can go without fear of prosecution.

The testing advocates want parents to know that the units are not pro-drugs. It is a service that arms youths with information on the purity and strength of the drugs they have already bought and plan to consume.

Research shows that up to 40 per cent of people who have a pill, powder or substance's purity tested and it comes up as dangerous, throw it out and walk away.

Harm Reduction Australia co-founder and president Gino Vumbaca told The Sunday Mail: "There is a lot of misinformation about pill testing. We are not encouraging drug taking.

"We talk to young people who have already bought the drug and plan to take it.

"We offer counselling without any judgment, and research shows it works.

"It reduces the level of risk.

Young people on the streets of Surfers Paradise yesterday as Schoolies kicks off for another year. Picture: David Clark/AAP
Young people on the streets of Surfers Paradise yesterday as Schoolies kicks off for another year. Picture: David Clark/AAP

"We have been in touch with the Queensland Government but have not had much in the way of response.''

Another speaker, University of NSW Drug Policy Modelling Program director Professor Alison Ritter, said there was enough evidence to support the introduction of pill testing into Queensland for party-style gatherings such as Schoolies and festivals.

"I'm strongly supportive,'' she said.

"It will not eliminate drug taking, but it will reduce harm.''

Mr Miles, who will attend the Brisbane conference, said he was unaware of any festivals in Queensland planning to use pill testing.

"The Health Ministerial Council recently noted a trial that is underway in Canberra on pill testing at festivals," he said.

"The Canberra Government agreed to share the results of the trial with all jurisdictions when the report is ready."

There is support for the trial of pill testing in Australia among some public health organisations and some federal MPs.

Opposers believe that abstinence is the only way to ensure young people are safe from the effects of illegal drugs.

The plea for pill testing comes after the police seized more than $100,000 in drugs including methylamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA. LSD and cannabis destined for Gold Coast drug syndicates.

A security guard on patrol at Schoolies yesterday backed pill testing at the annual event.

He said he had seen schoolies "off their faces" on drugs, and pills needed to be tested to avoid a tragedy.

"I saw one girl last year who in a very bad way after taking ecstasy pills," he said.

"You just don't know what's in them or how strong they are.

"You see a lot of schoolies checking in with large quantities of booze, but drugs are the big worry as far as I'm concerned.

"We need the Red Frogs (chaplains) walking around with pill testing kits."



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