Harm Reduction Victoria

Pill Testing Services to be permitted at Spilt Milk

by Seer E.S. on 24/09/2017

22 September 2017


Pill testing services to be permitted at Spilt Milk


The ACT Government will allow pill testing services to be provided as a harm reduction measure to keep people safe at the Spilt Milk music festival in Commonwealth Park on 25 November.


Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris said the pill testing would be provided as a free service by the Safety Testing & Advisory Service at Festivals & Events (STA-SAFE) consortium which is led by Harm Reduction Australia, Australian Drug Observatory, Noffs Foundation, DanceWize and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.


“Consuming illicit drugs is dangerous and illegal – that hasn’t changed,” Minister Fitzharris said.


“However the evidence is that by allowing this pill testing to take place at Spilt Milk we can help keep young people safe.


“Experience tells us young people are likely to suffer the potentially fatal ill-effects of drugs at music festivals. In 2015 several people aged between 19 and 26 tragically lost their lives in Australia.


“The ACT Government has carefully assessed the proposal from STA-Safe and will allow pill testing at Spilt Milk. We have also considered pill testing schemes in countries like New Zealand and Canada.


“Pill testing means young people who are considering taking drugs can be informed about what’s really in the their pills and how potent they are. And it creates an opportunity to remind them of the risks before they make the final decision to take a drug.”


Results of a National Drug Policing Survey in 2015 of people who regularly attend festivals found that 65.3% of respondents reported that they used illicit drugs at the most recent festival attended.


“Pill testing will provide an opportunity for health professionals to give face-to-face education and advice to young people, along with allowing useful information to be gathered about drugs,” Minister Fitzharris said.


“There is no evidence that having pill testing available results in increased illicit drug taking.”


Pill testing at festivals occurs around the world including Europe, UK and New Zealand.


At music festivals in 2016 in New Zealand, 20 per cent of samples were a completely different drug to what people thought they had purchased and 11 per cent of samples were “adulterated” with additional ingredients.


The testing facility at Spilt Milk will be co-located with medical services and will be enclosed to ensure patron privacy.


A small “scraping” of the substance will be taken and analysed. Patrons will be given information about the result and about the risks of drug-taking, and the opportunity to discard the illicit substance in the amnesty bin.  Amnesty bins will contain bleach to destroy the discarded substances.


In considering the STA-SAFE proposal, the ACT Government Working Group were also informed by a range of stakeholder organisations. The Working Group developed a summary of the key features of a harm reduction service offering ‘pill testing’ (at attached).


Summary of operational elements of pill testing services offered by a harm reduction service at a major music festival in the ACT


  • A separate stand-alone service will be established, located in close proximity to the event’s medical area.
  • The staff undertaking pill testing will be appropriately trained in using pill testing equipment
  • Staff delivering advice and intervention about drug use will be trained in drug counselling
  • The equipment used for pill testing must be able to reliably, within an acceptable timeframe, identify the major drug present in an unknown tablet or powder as well as potentially detect adulterants and/or substances that are unknown.
  • Regular communication should flow between the event organiser as well as ambulance and medical personnel in the nearby medical area to share information on the results of pill testing; this regular communication may assist with informing medical procedures in the case of overdose or other adverse event.
  • Pill testing has limitations and these must be communicated to patrons of the pill testing service. This includes communicating that pill testing does not guarantee identification of each substance contained within a substance.
  • Each patron must be directly notified, regardless of the pill testing result, that drug taking is inherently unsafe. Each patron must be notified that safe disposal of drugs is the best way to avoid health risk.
  • Bins must be provided by the service for safe disposal of drugs. The drugs contained in amnesty bins must be destroyed on site, such that they cannot be reconstituted and safely disposed of at the conclusion of the event by the harm reduction service.

·         The harm reduction service will collect evaluative data, which would include but not be limited to:

o   The number of patrons attending the service

o   The number of brief interventions as well as pill tests delivered

o   The number of patrons who discarded their drug at the service

o   The chemical content detected in each sample tested

  • This data must be shared with key stakeholders so that it may inform possible pill testing in the future, both for safety and operational aspects. This might include for example, communicating to police and public health of the circulation of illicit drugs, notably contaminated drugs, substances of high purity or novel psychoactive substances.



Statement ends

Media contact:

Elliot Woods      T (02) 6205 0022                M 0499 993 930                 E elliot.woods@act.gov.au


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