An organiser behind the Australian-first pill testing trial at Groovin The Moo has hailed the initiative as a success, after analysts discovered a potentially deadly chemical in several pills submitted for testing.

Harm Reduction Australia’s Gino Vumbaca told PEDESTRIAN.TV that the trial, which operated at the Canberra music festival over the weekend, discovered “two of the pills actually produced a chemical that is considered even in small doses quite dangerous, and potentially could create an overdose.” 

Vumbaca said that had it not been for the pill-testing team, it’s very likely the festival-goers would have used them – and potentially would have faced the harmful consequences.

“For the people who had those pills, that was important to identify for them before they actually ingested them,” Vumbaca said.

“The reality is if we weren’t there, they probably would have ingested them.”

While the full raft of findings from the trial will not be made available until later this week, Vumbaca said the trial was “well supported”, and that “a number of people also discarded their pills when they found out what was in them, because it wasn’t what they thought they had purchased.”

Vumbaca said some participants also found their pills were totally inert, containing no psychoactive elements at all.

Matt Noffs of the Ted Noffs Foundation – another member group of the STA-SAFE consortium behind the trial – tweeted that 50% of all samples were found to contain substances other than the drug MDMA, and some were found to have been cut with paint.

Despite the illegality of the substances being tested, ACT Police were supportive of the trial, which allowed punters to have their pills tested without fear of arrest. Amnesty bins were also provided for those who wished to dispose of any illicit substances.

Information on drug use at the festival outside of data obtained by the trial has not yet been made available, but Vumbaca said “there’s no reason for Australia not to introduce pill-testing based on our initial observations.”

“Some people would have liked to enhance [the experience] by taking a psychoactive substance,” Vumbaca added.

“They’re not looking to have something dangerous, something you can overdose on and cause all sorts of problems.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest that if it’s something they’ve bought inadvertently, that they’re aware of that.”

Image: Getty Images / Louise Wilson