Pill testing at music festivals: a cause for a complex debate

CONFLICTING: The issue of pill testing has presented some varied responses among key figures in the Central West.
CONFLICTING: The issue of pill testing has presented some varied responses among key figures in the Central West.

The death of a 22-year-old at a music festival on NSW’s Central Coast has reopened the debate as to whether pill testing should be trialed at festivals.

Pill testing involves examining the ingredients of common festival drugs for any life-threatening substances.

While the Central West isn’t exactly a hotbed for music festivals where drug use is prevalent, there has been some strong responses on the issue of pill testing.

Lifeline Central West centre supervisor Jodie Williams said there is plenty of evidence to suggest that pill testing saves lives.

“They’ve been doing it in Europe for over 10 years, and the evidence overwhelmingly proves that people choose not to take a drug if they find the contents do not match what they’ve bought,” Ms Williams said.

Ms Williams, who is also a drug and alcohol councilor at Orange’s Lyndon Withdrawal Unit, is passionate about programs that minimise the harm of illicit drugs.

"Many people assume that those who take drugs at festivals are habitual users,” she said.

“It’s not just regular drug users taking these substances, it’s our kids, our adolescents, people you wouldn’t assume are the kind to take drugs.”

Ms Williams’ statements are supported by State Country Labor candidate for Bathurst Beau Riley, who said   that any life-saving measures for drug use shouldn’t be ruled out.

“We need to start thinking a bit more holistically about this process,” Mr Riley said.

“It’s illegal to have illicit drugs in the first place, but if it is going to happen, we should consider any options that could potentially save lives.”

Conversely, State Member for Bathurst Paul Toole said that pill testing wouldn’t answer the question of how drugs affect different people.

“You can test a pill to see what’s inside, but you can’t tell how it’s going to affect a certain individual,” Mr Toole said.

“This is a very complex matter, but personally I don’t think drugs should be allowed at these festivals.”