Pill testing trial to keep people safe – and save lives

Pill testing trial to keep people safe – and save lives

Our Victorian Government will trial pill testing, also known as drug checking, starting this summer.

Pill testing is all about saving lives and changing behaviour by providing people with the health and safety information they need. It’s especially urgent now.

In 2022, Victoria experienced a rise in drug-related emergency department admissions and 46 overdose deaths involving novel synthetic drugs. Additionally, Victorian paramedics responded to more drug overdoses at festivals in the first three months of this year than in all of last year.

The mobile service will launch at the start of the festival season and will attend up to 10 music festivals and events throughout the trial period. Participants will not be told that any drug is safe to consume. Instead, they will be informed about the drug’s contents and have a conversation with an expert about the consequences and choices they face.

These conversations are crucial for reducing harm. Most clients using pill testing services in the ACT had never previously discussed drug use with a professional, and 90 per cent said they would share the information with their peers.

Amendments to the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 will allow the trial to proceed with protections for the service, its staff, and its clients, ensuring no-one is breaking the law by operating or using the testing service.

The possession and supply of illicit drugs will not be decriminalised outside the service. Police powers outside the drug-checking service will remain unchanged.

Victoria will consult with police and other authorities to establish a fair and feasible arrangement that encourages people to use the service. Relevant guidelines and policies will be clearly communicated before the trial starts.

While the trial aims to save lives, reduce drug harm, and improve public health at music festivals, it also seeks to reduce pressure on frontline services and enhance Victoria’s drug surveillance capabilities. Pill testing offers real-time surveillance, boosting our existing programs and enabling early detection and rapid assessment of new synthetic drugs.

The Department of Health will collaborate with agencies and major events to develop a Safer Music Festivals Framework, helping organisers and providers understand their responsibilities in keeping patrons safe.

This trial is one of many health-led drug harm initiatives being delivered by the Labor Government, with the state’s multi-year $95 million State-wide Action Plan to reduce opiate drug deaths and harm now under way. •


Nina Taylor is the Member for the Victorian seat of Albert Park.

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