A group of top healthcare organizations and independent MP Alex Greenwich are warning that if the New South Wales government fails to implement a drug testing program during the summer festival season, more lives could be in danger.
The group plans to advocate for a pill testing experiment on Thursday following the recent deaths of two young partygoers at a music festival and the upcoming hot summer season.
The RACGP, nursing union, and Health Services Union are among the prominent voices advocating for change.
Subscribe to Guardian Australia’s complimentary morning and afternoon email newsletters to receive a daily summary of news.
Healthcare professionals understand that drug checking is a well-established and beneficial measure that can assist individuals in making informed choices about drug consumption, potentially saving lives. This was stated in a joint statement.
Health professionals offer specialized guidance on harm reduction and assist individuals in minimizing the dangers associated with drug use through drug-checking services.
The team cited the upcoming hot summer and warned that postponing testing would endanger lives.
The group stated that the combination of high temperatures and higher than expected amounts of MDMA can be a deadly mix.
“Without the ability to check drugs, it is impossible to determine potentially dangerous drug samples before individuals ingest them.”
After rejecting requests for testing this summer, Premier Chris Minns has now been urged to initiate an urgent drug-checking trial.
He stated that there are no plans to do that.
Minns stated that the government was open to reform and mentioned that drug testing would be discussed at the upcoming drug summit, along with other potential areas for reform such as drug driving laws.
In late 2019, a NSW coroner suggested that the state implement pill testing.
The coroner, Harriet Grahame, concluded that there was substantial evidence indicating that strict and harsh drug enforcement efforts were exacerbating risks and harm associated with drug use.
A trial has other supporters in parliament including Jeremy Buckingham from the Legalise Cannabis party and the Greens, who have repeatedly petitioned the premier for action to be taken ahead of the summit so there are local results to analyse.
In January, Queensland declared its plans to implement pill testing at both mobile and stationary locations, following the positive results from trials conducted in Canberra.
According to Dr. Hester Wilson of the RACGP, individuals modify their drug usage plans after gaining a better understanding of the composition of the substances they intend to consume.
“This is evidence-based policy, and it will save lives,” she said. “When the option is available, it allows people to make informed decisions, and they will often tell their mates, who change how they use and are safer as a result. It also allows conversations about harm and links to treatment for those who need and want it.”
According to Will Tregoning, the CEO of Unharm, it should not be against the law to assist in saving lives.
He stated that Chris Minns should heed the requests of doctors and nurses to take action and allow for drug checking.
“It is an easy and impactful measure he can implement to ensure people’s safety during the summer.”
According to Shaye Candish, the general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, it is now up to the government to take action.
“As professionals in the healthcare field, we recognize the significance of heeding evidence. Adopting a harm minimization approach is considered the best practice,” she stated.
On Thursday, Ryan Park, the health minister of the state, will appear for NSW budget estimates.
He previously stated that pill testing is not a guaranteed solution to prevent fatalities.