Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Harm reduction: quality assurance for illegal drugs in Australia

The WaPo has the story, from Australia

Music festivals are offering to test the safety of people’s drugs and police are increasingly liking the idea

"MELBOURNE, Australia — When young visitors from around the world headed to Australia’s Groovin the Moo music festival in Canberra last summer, public health policy researchers were watching carefully. In a rare decision, local officials there had allowed the installation of a pill testing facility, allowing festival goers to have illegal substances examined for unusual and potentially even more dangerous additives, without having to fear arrest.

"For a long time, authorities at festivals in Australia and elsewhere almost entirely focused on preventing people from taking drugs in the first place. That approach has done little to drive down the number of drug-related deaths, however, and a mounting body of research suggests that pill testing facilities might be a more promising strategy.
"While the idea has recently gained more support, drug tests aren’t new and have also been tried out in some parts of the United States. Installing such facilities at music festivals has de-facto been the norm in some European countries, including the Netherlands and Austria, for more than a decade. But amid more detailed research and increases in drug-related hospital admissions, supporters of drug tests are now also gaining momentum in Australia and New Zealand, where authorities have so far only allowed limited trials.
"Critics argue that the approach could encourage young people to take more drugs and that it sends the wrong message. On-site tests have also been singled out for being inaccurate, given the sometimes limited availability of equipment.
But supporters of the tests maintain that their approach is far more effective than focusing on arrests. Pill testing “has been shown to change the black market” for the better and may even decrease overall drug consumption, as “negative results would deter a majority of people from consuming drugs and spur them to warn their friends,” according to a summary of arguments in favor of tests by Australia’s parliamentary library. Research by the Global Drug Survey came to a similar conclusion last year."

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