After five suspected drug overdoses at music festivals in New South Wales over the summer, students are involving themselves in the conversation around pill testing in Western Australia.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy are a grass-roots organisation that advocates for evidence-based drug policies and have launched the #BeHeardNotHarmed campaign to legalise and fund pill testing at festivals around Australia.
#BeHeardNotHarmed is a youth-led campaign aimed at linking young people to a network of advocates and starting a conversation among policy makers and local political representatives.
SSDP WA coordinator Joe Panaia said greater education about drug use and the introduction of pill testing services would reduce the risk of harm to young people.
“Young people don’t know about the dosages and when they try it once and start having a good time, they take more and more which is where the risk to their brain chemistry comes in,” he said.
“At the end of the day, people are doing what they think is best and jumping on the internet and getting their information that way.
“The contact they can have with professionals and experts in this field is the most important thing to gain from this education.”
A 2013 survey by the Australian National Council on Drugs concluded 82 per cent of young people aged 16 to 25 agreed with pill testing.
Curtin Student Guild president Finlay Nolan said young people trying drugs and experimenting was a part of reality.
“We’re still seeing young people dying at festivals, dying in their homes and at parties as a result of taking things that they’re not educated about and they have no idea what they’re actually taking,” she said.
“We need to consider a new approach of pill testing kits and making sure people are well informed about what they’re consuming.”
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study showed in 2016 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 were most likely to try illicit drugs for the first time and had consumed them within the last 12 months.
Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia founder Paul Dillon said it was important for potential drug users to have quality information about the drug they were taking, however that did not mean the drug itself was safe.
“Pill testing should be a part of an overall strategy, just one element of a suite of strategies to keep people who attend music festivals as safe as possible,” he said.
Murdoch University student Ellie Nagle, 19, said it was a good idea to consider pill testing however it had its downfalls.
“It can prevent drug-related deaths and injuries, although it is still illegal to take drugs and it opens up a moral argument over what should be allowed,” she said.
A WA Government spokesperson said the State Government had no plans to consider pill testing at this time.