After a series of deaths and overdoses this summer, and as we head into the final public holiday weekend of January and its traditional music festivals, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is calling for urgent national action on the introduction of pill-testing trials.
ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said that for many years the ANMF and other key experts have advocated for drug and alcohol related harm minimisation measures. Many of those measures have been introduced and have proved to be very successful in preventing avoidable deaths and overdoses. It’s now time for the Government to show national leadership and, in collaboration with frontline health experts, take serious action to introduce pill-testing trials.
“Supported by a significant volume of international evidence, Australian experts, nurses, doctors and others working in drug and alcohol services, are increasing their calls for pill-testing trials,” Ms Butler said.
“The evidence shows that pill-testing is effective. Not only does it directly reduce harm from drug taking by preventing overdoses and unnecessary deaths, it can also lead to behaviour change amongst young people. Data has shown that when the results of pill-testing are presented to young people a majority will modify their drug taking behaviours and will share this message with their groups of friends.
“In addition to those benefits, pill-testing also provides an opportunity to share information and provide education around the risks and potential harms of drug taking. This is an opportunity that can be very difficult to find by other means.
“Policing and law enforcement strategies, while necessary at times, are simply not effective in preventing harm. Australia has an internationally recognised reputation in its approach to harm minimisation with regard to drug and alcohol use but we are falling way behind in our approach to pill-testing.
“Politicians must respond to the evidence, and while many calls are being made on state Premiers to introduce pill-testing trials which would be useful, there must be national leadership and coordination on this issue.
“Countries in Europe have been pill-testing since the 1990s, it’s time Australia’s political leaders took notice and took action before more young lives are lost.”
The ANMF, the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Australasian College of Physicians, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the Independent Member for Wentworth Dr Kerryn Phelps, Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale and Drug and Alcohol experts, are among those who are calling on State and Federal Governments to implement pill-testing trials, with a number of music festivals being staged in coming weeks.