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Inside the pill testing tent at festivals | Did You Know?

Inside the pill testing tent at festivals | Did You Know?


Calls for pill testing, or drug checking,
at music festivals have escalated again this summer. But there’s also been a lot of misinformation
out there about what pill testing involves. Without advocating for one side or the other,
we thought we’d examine exactly what happens inside the tent when someone wants to get their drugs checked. What does the process involve? Supporters of pill testing say it lowers harms
associated with drug use and can help change someone’s behaviour. But others argue the tests encourage illegal
drug use or can’t detect new synthetic drugs. Pill testing gives people a false sense of
security, pill testing doesn’t deal with overdoses, pill testing doesn’t deal with
the fact that what is safe for one person isn’t safe for another person. Australia has so far seen one pill-testing
trial at the Canberra Groovin the Moo festival in 2018. We’re pill testing today! Australia’s trial used the same model found
at European festivals including in the UK and Austria. In fact, drug checking has been used in Europe
since the early 1990s in various forms, mostly off-site, and in some countries at festivals
and night spots. The Netherlands started in 1992 and several other European countries
have since seen checking services. Testing also now exists in New Zealand and parts of
the Americas. In Australia, DIY testing kits have been available
for years, but these tests can’t confirm dose levels and won’t pick up whether the
drugs are laced with other, potentially lethal, substances. When done professionally, like at Groovin the
Moo, a team of specialists use sophisticated spectrometer tests to find out what’s in
someone’s drugs. So let’s go through the stages of the
kind of pill testing being called-for at festivals in Australia. The testing tent would usually be set up in
the medical area at a festival. On entering, you’ll be met by a ‘harm
reduction worker’ and will be asked to lock away your phone in a safe, as there’s no
photos or video allowed inside. There’s also certain eligibility criteria
that you’ll have to meet before you were able to test your drugs. Among them are a
refusal if you’re carrying large amounts of a drug, and you’ll have to sign a waiver
before testing is possible. The waiver clearly states the testing won’t
show evidence a drug is safe to consume, and it won’t provide information about how your
body will respond to the drug being tested that day. The first thing we say, contrary to what many
people suggest, the first thing we say is that if you want to stay safe today from any
harms associated with drug consumption, you shouldn’t use any drugs today. From here, you’re given a unique number,
on a wrist band, which stays with you through the next steps and is linked to
your drug sample test. You’re also asked a few questions, like,
what kind of drug do you think you have and is it the first time you’ve ever used illegal
drugs? In Australia, eight-and-a-half million people
aged 14 or over reported using an illicit drug at some point in their life and 19 per
cent of people aged 20 to 29 said they’d tried ecstasy. After those questions, it’s then time for
the actual test. In Australia’s trial it was conducted by post-doctoral chemists, licenced
to handle illicit drugs. The drug is then placed on a platform and is photographed, weighed and measured. The chemists also have a chance to chat with
you about how drugs are manufactured and a sample of the drug is taken for testing.
The more provided, the better it can tell what’s inside. The machine used is called a Fourier-transform
infrared spectrophotometer. What happens is the patron will provide our
qualified chemist with a product, which they will place on this platform here. If you look
closely, you’ll see there’s a diamond at the base of the platform, and a laser
is fired into the product and that laser is scattered, it’s reflected by the product
according to what’s contained there-in. That scattering is recorded as a fingerprint
and that fingerprint shows up here. Every compound has a fingerprint according to the
nature of the bonds of various chemicals contained there-in and what the computer program is very
good at doing is very rapidly comparing quite a difficult fingerprint to its library of
nearly 30,000 different compounds. Once a result is found, the chemist labels
the sample with one of three classifications: A white answer means the sample is pretty
much what you expected. You could also be given a yellow classification,
which means the sample is different to what you expected. Or, you could return a red category, which
means the sample is known to be associated with increased harm/multiple overdoses or
even death. Even in this very small trial that we conducted
in Canberra, we identified two products we thought were worthy of a red. One was N-Ethylpentylone,
which is a rather unpleasant cathetone, and we fully anticipate seeing more of that
this year. The other was a product that the machine was not sure about, and you do not
want to be the person who consumes a new drug first From here, a medical officer talks you through
the test results and risks of consuming the substances identified, including those given
a white classification. And you’re directed to a drug and alcohol counsellor who provides
information on ways to reduce your risk. Before leaving the tent, there’s an amnesty
bin nearby where you can throw away any drugs you choose. In all, the process takes about 10 to 20 minutes. Despite its sophistication, some toxicologists
say the set-ups used a festivals do have their limitations. Australia’s largest workplace drug-testing
lab takes 24 hours to return accurate results. There’s some real issues here with how accurate
and reliable the technology is that we can deploy quickly and rapidly in a tent. In 2016, the Global Drug Survey said it was
the “worst time in a generation to start taking MDMA” partly because of the dangerous
levels of purity in today’s drugs compared with pills in the 90s, which were generally
about five times weaker. Organisers of the trial at Groovin the Moo
say drug checking would cost about $34,000 for each festival.

24 thoughts on “Inside the pill testing tent at festivals | Did You Know?”

  1. Labor must be on drugs if they think they can ever win a federal election putting foreigners and so called 'refugees' before Australians.

  2. As if anyone is going to bother with all that nonsense. If they’re dumb enough to take pills someone gives them then so be it.

  3. If authorities were genuine in their harm minimisation strategies, they would ban Alcohol and Cigarettes. This is just a Government war on young people..it happens with every generation.

  4. How is it financially feasible to take out illicit drugs by using a system that has failed. Just use harm reduction. It is embarrassing that a young person like me is able to see the logical conclusion and the old folks who are "wise" dont.

  5. I used to work in a commercial laboratory. This is a pre-scanning laser emission spectrometer use in chemical laboratory, but the accuracy and precision is relatively low; of which can only detect to 10(-3) level.

  6. If the government sold safe drugs at a reasonable price that could solve the problem after all alcohol is legal. Yes I am a old person and do not understand drugs or young people but I do understand banning something is not the answer.

  7. Incredible look into the work these important organizations are doing! We've been doing so much research into this for Wasteland. Very essential service they are offering.

  8. I'm still really confused because it's illegal to bring them in so don't they stop the people coming out of the tent and take the drugs off them?

  9. Just like the Yahoo /Yowie /Marsupial Man/Grigori /Dungidy /bunyip….. Australians are left in the dark.. When it comes to the TRUTH…. and a safe path forward………. All apart of the government shit trail…. 💯

  10. Australia is pathetic! Subsidized communist everything. Doesn’t matter if it’s illegal or not. So called Free medical destroying our country making the elite investors of the medical industry in Australia trillions! The same ppl that influence and own government. No wonder the government turning a blind eye to corruption on how and what things cost. We all knew government pay hundreds times what things cost bcse of inside corruption. Taxes is my money. 50$ for a carton of beer is ridiculous.. everywhere else 8 to 15 dollars in America and Europe. Food, goods and services paying the elite monopolies. Soon YouTube will taken away from Australia due to copyright. Foxtell are already in the process of destroying the free internet due to their ownership of everything. The same elite that own government. Don’t think anyone will see this post, bcse Australia is now like China and suppression rules.

  11. Allow testing and save some lives.
    Australia has safe injecting rooms where Junkies can go in and inject herion an illegal substance with medical supervision. WTF, figure that one out.

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