Innocent lives around the world are being lost at music festivals. Young individuals enjoying various songs and the joy of friendship are having their lives destroyed by the consumption of dangerous pills. These scenarios are avoidable, and that is why they are so heart-wrenching. So how do we solve this increasingly prevalent issue in society?
Cancelling all musical festivals will not solve this issue. Why? Firstly, the music industry relies on music festivals. They can showcase local talent, propel careers and create a culture within communities. They draw people together and a vital aspect of society. If there was a significant alcohol abuse problem at sporting games (arguably this is already the case), but people lost their lives as a result, do we just cancel all sporting games? And make athletes compete in isolated stadiums? Cancelling music festivals does not solve the problem.
Increasing police presence and authority will not solve this issue. Why? Police activity at music festivals has not stopped the consumption of pills. From the very start of festivals, there have been security and police. As more incidents occurred, the numbers of police on patrol increased, but we still have the loss of life happening. Moreover, the authority of police to perform searches has come under scrutiny, leaving individuals humiliated. This is compounded by a coronial inquest which heard evidence that in some cases, a heavy police presence at music festival may have contributed to drug-related deaths due to fear. Increasing police presence and authority will not solve this issue.
So, what can we do to protect young individuals in our society at festivals?
Introduce pill testing. For months, this decision has been debated at all levels of government, particularly in Australia but also globally. Politicians have decided to ignore blatant facts in favour of the circus of democracy. Regardless, these are the reasons why we need pill testing.
Pill testing has a positive impact on young people’s drug consumption behaviour. A report in the UK found that 20% of service users disposed of substances when the drug testing service revelated the substance to be other than what had been intended to be purchased. Moreover, a further two-thirds of individuals whose samples did not match their intended purchase disposed of additional substances. These are clear examples of drugs being removed from music festivals without the influence of enforcement agencies, and possibly saving lives.
Pill testing also changes the black market as dangerous products are removed due to warning campaigns. Furthermore, visits to pill-testing booths provide an essential opportunity for providing support and information over and above the testing itself. Pill testing can also capture long-term data, allowing for an early warning system beyond immediate users.
The consistent line of argument by politicians is that pill testing will promote further drug use among young people. Pill testing does not encourage drug use. It protects our community, and several doctors have implored the Premier to lead a trial in New South Wales. Pill testing is a clear way that we can reduce the harm of illicit substances, and that should be encouraged.
With all things considered, any action of harm reduction needs to weigh up the benefits and risks. Currently, the dangers of pill testing are extremely low. There is no evidence showing increasing use of drugs with the presence of pill testing; however, there is strong evidence of reduced consumption in association with pill testing. This is why we need pill testing.
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