Image for Government Under Pressure Over Pill Testing As Ecstasy Related Hospital Presentations DoubleImage: Wikimedia Commons

Government Under Pressure Over Pill Testing As Ecstasy Related Hospital Presentations Double

Written by Michael Carr on February 15, 2016

Pressure for the State Government to re-consider their stance on pill testing has mounted as the number of ecstasy users appearing at NSW hospitals has doubled, despite the government’s hard line policing efforts.

The new figures come from a study of patient data from 59 NSW emergency departments, showing an increase in ecstasy-related presentations from 413 in 2010 to 814 by 2015.

Calls for the State Government to rethink its strategy have been growing ever louder following the tragic deaths at last year’s Stereosonic Festivals in Sydney and Adelaide.

However, NSW Police Minister and Deputy Premier Troy Grant has rejected the approach, while NSW Police under Mike Baird‘s government have been accused of targeting drug users in their policing strategies, over embracing harm minimisation policies.

Meanwhile former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer is of a different opinion. Speaking to ABC’s Four Corners, Palmer said he would support testing as it reduces the danger for people who choose to take ecstasy.

“I have no problem with it at all, I think it makes absolute sense to try to test the quality of the drugs that people are taking,” he said.

Also on the side of reform is former NSW director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery. Raising the concerns shared by many that the policy of searching young people as they entered music festivals might be causing more harm than good, Cowdery said:

“There can be some harmful effects, for example if somebody sees a sniffer dog coming along they might rather stupidly swallow whatever they’ve got and there have been some examples of that and that can lead to very serious physical harm,” he said.

Ever on the party line however, Grant vehemently dismissed such a program, labelling it a regime and casting doubt on the efficacy of testing, commenting “a pill testing regime may well tell you what’s in that pill, but it has no way to tell you whether it will kill you or not.” Surely that is all the more reason to come up with a test that does?

“What you’re proposing there is a government regime that is asking for taxpayers’ money to support a drug dealer’s business enterprise — that’s not going to happen in New South Wales while ever I’m the minister,” he finished.

This came as little surprise to anyone, Grant having long made his position on the issue clear.

These renewed calls for pill testing come as NSW Labor MP Jo Haylen spoke against her party’s official policy on tackling drug use at music festivals, calling for a band on the use of sniffer dogs as well as the introduction of amnesty bins and pill-testing at events.

Speaking at a health debate as part of the ALP’s annual state conference, Haylen joined the chorus of drug policy experts, musicians, top industry figures and medical professionals appealing for “a harm minimisation approach” to drug laws.

This position also reflects the majority of punters, with almost 84% of more than 10,000 Music Feeds readers polled voting in favour of pill-testing:

pill testing chart

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