A LEADING pill testing advocate and emergency doctor says the system could be set up at festivals in Tasmania “within a fortnight” and has urged opponents to participate in a public debate with him about its merits.
Emergency doctor David Caldicott worked on Australia’s first successful pill testing trial at Groovin The Moo in Canberra last year and was critical of Premier Will Hodgman’s refusal this week to establish pill testing trials.
Mr Hodgman’s comments came after the Royal Australasian College of Physicians joined the Australian Medical Association and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in backing pill testing trials.
The system involves setting up in a medical tent at a festival where attendees can register anonymously, receive an on-site analysis of a substance and information about the risks involved in consuming the identified substances.
Information about harm reduction strategies is also provided.
Dr Caldicott said pill testing was not about promoting drug use, but instead giving people information about the risks they were taking.
“We demonstrate right in front of them – it works like a street magic trick – showing them what’s in their drugs, and many find the reality of the substances disconcerting. It shakes their faith in the market,” he said.
“At no stage will we say if drugs are good or safe.
“The phrase we use is: ‘If you want to be 100 per cent certain, you shouldn’t use any drugs today’.
“Since 2002 we’ve known that in venues and festivals around the world that have pill testing in place, fewer people use drugs, they use fewer drugs, and they mix their drugs less often.”
The pill testing debate was reignited following the deaths of six people from suspected drug overdoses at festivals in New South Wales in the past five months.
NSW coroners will release recommendations following the deaths.
One of the deaths prompted Falls Festival organisers to issue a warning on its Facebook page.
Dr Caldicott said medically-supervised pill testing could be set up in Tasmania for free, “any time, any festival”.
We will come to Tasmania, and work with locals to set up ethically approved, medically-supervised #pilltesting, for free.— David Caldicott (@ACTINOSProject) January 19, 2019
We have the experts, and the expertise, and we’re here to help.https://t.co/kTQigEoC06https://t.co/UJCIyBrvla
“We want to go wherever Tasmanians feel that there is the greatest risk of harm," he said.
“I was in Tasmania in October, asked to speak with the ambulance service on drugs and pill testing. There was enormous enthusiasm for it.
“I would strongly recommend law enforcement in Tasmania talk to law enforcement in the ACT – they thought it worked really well.”
Mr Hodgman said the government would look at ways to ensure “Tasmanians at events and festivals are enjoying themselves” and to “look at the evidence” to inform their position.
He said there is “no safe way to take illicit drugs”.
Police Minister Michael Ferguson made similar comments earlier this month, saying it was “reckless” to suggest there was a safe way to use illicit drugs.
Tasmanian Labor says it supports harm-minimisation approaches.
The AMA has supported pill testing since 2005.