Australia’s 60 Minutes presents a strong case for drug-testing inside festivals
The pros and cons of allowing repercussion-free drug testing inside of music festivals have been widely debated in recent months, especially as the summer music festival season brings with it a spike in festival-related deaths. Australia’s current affairs television program 60 Minutes brought the discussion into the public eye by presenting a strong case as to why Australian clubs and music festivals should allow drug testing. Reporter Tara Brown travelled to Austria and the Netherlands, where many drugs are decriminalized, to investigate the correlations between permitted drug-testing and lives saved.
Australia has the largest per-capita usage of ecstasy in the world, and Dutch drug-testing expert Ninette Van Hasselt asserted that “they’re not very much concerned with what they take [in Australia]. They don’t have an idea of the real contents of what they’re taking.” The investigation was spurred by the recent deaths of two 19-year olds at dance music events in Australia. One of the harm minimization experts consulted, Dr. David Caldicott, strongly advocated that Australia should follow the lead of European countries like Switzerland that allow pill testing. Studies by Austria’s drug testing programs, which have spanned two decades, show that one-third of users who have their drugs tested elect not to take them. “We know for a fact that when there is a pill-testing program in place, that consumers actually change their behaviour,” he told 60 Minutes. “If the result of a test on a pill is something other than what they thought it would be, they frequently elect to abandon taking that pill. And we have the opportunity to let them know and interface with them about how they can moderate their behavior.”
He also notes that the presence of drug-sniffing dogs, which are also increasingly used at American festivals, has no effect on deterring drug use at events. Dr. Caldicott argues that once drug manufacturers know that there is a way for users to test pills without legal consequences, they’ll be pressured to stop using harmful synthetics in the first place. The majority of ecstasy users only use the drug for a brief span of a few years, and Dr. Caldicott contends that it’s the job of medical experts to keep adolescents alive during that period in whatever way possible. “This is the equivalent of priests telling young people not to have sex – it represents a stunning misunderstanding of adolescent psychology… If a law doesn’t work, it’s not a very good law, is it? This message of ‘just say no’, it’s terrible, and it’s killing people, and it needs to stop now.”
You can watch the entire program here.
H/T: In The Mix