Less than half of the drug samples provided to pill testers at Canberra’s Groovin The Moo music festival were found to match patrons’ expectations, according to the final report on the Australian-first trial scheme.
The Safety and Testing and Advisory Service at Festivals and Events (STA-SAFE) consortium today released their full findings from the April trial, highlighting the alarming disparity between what punters believed believed their illicit substances to be and what they actually were.
Of the substances pill testers detected to a high degree of accuracy, only 43% matched patron expectations.
Just 45% of samples presented by punters who believed they had MDMA had the drug detected as the major component.
“This confirms that Australian MDMA has higher rates of substitution or impurities in the tablets sold on the unregulated market,” the report states.
Three people presented substances they believed to be cocaine, but the drug was not accurately identified in any of those samples.
One sample, presented by a patron who believed it was methamphetamine, was found to have high concentrations of n-ethylpentylone, a potent drug which has been linked to overdoses abroad.
Cutting agents like lactose were found in 20% of presented samples, along with substances including protein, caffeine, and toothpaste.
The report notes that a full 61% of patrons who used the service were surprised by the results of the testing.
In its assessment of the trial, the report notes “pill testing as a harm reduction service at the ACT GTM can be described as an overwhelming success,” and that similar operations should be rolled out nationwide.
“The development of a uniquely Australian pill testing service model that involves peers, health professionals and law enforcement officials working together to reduce harm amongst drug users needs to be prioritised and supported by all Australian governments,” the report states.
That sentiment was echoed by ACT Ambulance Commander Toby Keen, who said paramedics didn’t attend to anyone who had used the pill testing service.
“It’s worthwhile noting the people we transported for acute intoxication hadn’t been to pill-testing which I think is actually a good success marker for the pill-testing,” Keen said.
You can read the full report HERE.