The final report into an Australian-first pill testing trial at Canberra’s Groovin The Moo festival in April has been tabled, and it includes a number of disturbing details about drugs tested at the event.
The report, released today by Harm Reduction Australia on behalf of the STA-SAFE consortium, shows that while over 80 per cent of participants believed they were taking MDMA, less than half of samples tested contained relatively pure MDMA.
In total, the report shows 125 people had pills tested, and that of the 83 usable drug samples analysed on the day, 42 had MDMA as their main ingredient, while 17 contained fillers of cutting agents.
Some samples were also found to contain things like antihistamine, oil, caffeine, dietary supplements and toothpaste.
A 36-year-old man brought what he believed to be “meth” to the testing tent, but the main ingredient found in his sample was n-ethylpentylone, which has been linked to mass overdoses and fatal overdoses. The man allegedly told clinicians that he would use less of the drug than he was originally planning.
Substances in tablet form were also found to be of much lower quality than other forms, with the highest purity MDMA generally coming in capsules.
In total, only five people were seen discarding their drugs in amnesty bins, but the report said “numerous discards” were also witnessed after the festival.
People as young as 15 had their pills tested at the event, and 45 per cent of participants were aged 20 or under.
Interestingly, men were twice as likely to have pills tested than women, according to the report.
58 per cent of people who took part in the trial said they would take their drugs as planned, while 42 per cent said they would change their behaviour.
12 per cent said they would use less, while 18 per cent said they wouldn’t use any illicit drugs on the day.
The report gave six recommendations, and called for more pill testing to take place at other festivals in the future.
It also recommended all levels of government work with the STA-SAFE consortium to set up a national pill testing framework and an ongoing public early warning system (EWS).
The report called the trial an “overwhelming success”, with 83 per cent of users rating the service as ‘very good’ and 13 percent rating it as ‘good’.
“The pilot demonstrated that such an intervention is possible and that people are willing to use the service, despite the limitations arising from the tight timelines, inauspicious physical infrastructure and the lack of dissemination strategies on site during the festival,” it said.
The cost of the trial is estimated to be $34,000, but most of the services were provided pro bono.
“While this may seem like a substantial amount of money, it represents roughly an order of magnitude less than the money invested annually in the sniffer dog program in NSW,” the report said.
“In other words, for the same investment 10 separate pill testing programs could be funded to provide an opportunity to positively engage with young drug consumers and collect meaningful, actionable, de-identified intelligence on the illicit drugs market – neither of which sniffer dogs can do.”
Since the trial, pill testing has gained increased bipartisan political support.
You can read the full report into the Groovin The Moo pill testing trial right here.
Please see our latest media release regarding the first officially sanctioned pilot pill testing program undertaken by the STA-SAFE Consortium in Canberra in April 2018 – https://t.co/JsgvwxqWJP
— Harm Reduction Aus (@harmreductionau) June 19, 2018