Groovin The Moo Testing Success Proves Drug Prohibition Is A Deadly Pill To Swallow

The first festival to offer on-site pill testing regulated by the Australian Government happened over the weekend, as Groovin the Moo passed through the Canberra leg of its rural tour. From all accounts thus far, the service couldn’t have run any smoother! And clearly saved the day after identifying two deadly components, including the mass killer ephylone.

The success has opened the floor for debate in the Australian parliament, with many legislators wondering whether they should enforce on-site pill testing to inform users and prevent consumption, or if the service will lead to greater acceptance (and use) of drugs in society.

Music festival, Drug control, Drug policies
Groovin the Moo 2017. Image credit: Bendigo Tourism

For many years now, young people have been taking drugs at music events to enhance their experiences – even though there are high risks of overdosing and dying. The risk is even higher if we consider the possibility that the tablets can contain poisonous substances. This became a subject of matter in parliament after the 25 overdose cases that were encountered on the Electric Parade Music Festival back in 2017, which made clear that even though young people know about the risks of these substances, it didn’t stop them from taking them.

It’s not rocket science: prevention doesn’t work. It didn’t work in the times of alcohol prohibition, and it sure as hell doesn’t work now with illicit substances. You can call kids young, dumb and naive until the Groovin’ cows come home but that doesn’t explain basic human nature – some people, regardless of their age, feel a natural instinct to rebel. You can, however, call us Khalid; with the high cost of alcohol leaving us not only ‘young, dumb and broke’, but also contributing to the younger generation’s reliance on illicit substances as their party poison of choice. But that’s a whole other ket of fish…

On-site pill testing can have a significant impact on young users through the mechanism of ‘harm reduction’ – acknowledging that punters are still going to take substances, but giving them clear cut facts about the substances they are considering ingesting. Testing may still prevent use or reduce intake by informing users of the dangers that are subject to each pill, and that’s the very least we can do to mitigate the increasingly prevalent drug culture.

Drug usage, overdose, FIB, Drug tetsing, Australia, Global scene
A Hardstyle event patient. Image credit: ABC News

The same was believed by Geoff Howard representing the Opposition, and by Victorian Greens member Colleen Hartland, both of whom publicly backed pill testing after the I AM Hardstyle event in Melbourne that saw nine cases of possible overdoses. The Australian police – even in this extreme case – fell back to its retrograde stance by stating that drugs were just poison and that tests did not matter because the substance would remain to be poison. Seriously, this stance almost reminds me of the way in which religion protects creation without the need of any fact.

But the Australian Government finally took a step forward into understanding, controlling and better helping people in contact with illicit substances. April 29th was a landmark day for Australian drug regulation, succeeding the approval of an on-site drug testing tent in the Groovin Moo Festival in Canberra. The trial discovered 2 lethal components within a batch of volunteered samples – potentially saving two young lives – all thanks to the participation of the Ted Noffs organisation, who for many years have been fighting drug usage.

The Australian Government only started thinking of such measures after overlooking the European and UK paradigm concerning this matter. The drug prevention movement started after the outrageous number of overdoses that occurred in Europe in the 70’s and the 80’s, and communities found that although they could not stop the consumption of such substances, there were certain activities (such as drug testing and rehab programs) that could mitigate the damage of drug usage.

The process of drug testing started back in the 1990’s in the Netherlands, and now has been included as part of their drug regulations. Anyone can visit Jellinek or GCD Amsterdam drug testing labs which will tell you all the information regarding the substance within 24 hours, and for as little as $4.

There are 4 reasons behind the establishment of drug testing in the Netherlands: tracking the illicit drug market, alert the population of certain drugs in circulation, promote education, and for prevention purposes. Frankly, it’s baffling why other governments haven’t jumped onboard.

Jellinek, drug control, Government control, drug usage
With my addiction, I go to Jellinek campaign. Image credit: Jellinek

Switzerland and Austria have also adopted such policies, with Austria home to Check It! – an organisation that underwent much scrutiny to prove whether drug-testing led to increased drug consumption. The results returned favourably, since most of the people that visited the organisation ended up either not consuming the substance(s), or consuming a smaller dose thus reducing the risk of overdose.

In a more primitive way, Spain has also adopted these types of practices, but as in Belgium, these are ran entirely by NGO’s such as Nos Mueven las Personas (People Move us) which has overseen drug testing in Spain for the last 20 years.

Australia has their own version of a social-driven organisation, with community figure Matt Noffs actively helping the community, and protesting for pill-testing measures. Noffs believes that in doing so, the government could better regulate illicit and controlled substances, in turn providing safer measures for the Australian community.

We can see the dim light of the end of the tunnel but we are not there yet: the place where our understanding of drugs will be greater, and where we can completely mitigate the damages of drug usage. The understanding and knowledge concerning this issue is key, and as is the case when ingesting any class of drug (including prescription and over the counter) – any and all information can be of immense value.