Spilt Milk was meant to be the first festival in Australia to offer pill-testing. (Facebook: Spilt Milk)
Revellers at Canberra’s Spilt Milk festival have turned to do-it-yourself pill testing kits, after an effort to have an official testing site was derailed.
Festival organisers secured approval from the ACT Government for the testing, but pulled out last month citing issues with documentation and licencing.
Harry (not his real name) has been handing out homemade kits from his base in Canberra for about eight months, and said he had seen a significant uptick in requests in the lead-up to the festival.
“In the few days gone by, I’ve been very busy out delivering kits around Canberra, leaving them in people’s letterboxes,” he said.
The kits use a reagent chemical which can indicate the presence of a number of substances.
“[Users] would typically be seen in the media as young people who don’t care, they’re a bit reckless or a bit rowdy,” Harry said.
“But these people that I meet are very concerned about their health, what they’re about to take — and they want to do it properly.”
But Harry conceded the kits he distributes were rudimentary.
“I think of our kits as a third of the way there. So, they can tell you whether what you think is in it is in it,” he said.
“But they can’t tell you purity and they can’t tell you whether there’s other adulterants in it.”
Harry said he wanted to see formal testing, managed by professionals, that takes a more analytical approach.
The kits Harry distributes are rudimentary, and cannot detect purity levels. (ABC News: James Fettes)
‘Ideal opportunity’ missed: Doctor
Emergency consultant Dr David Caldicott said it was unsurprising people had turned to DIY kits.
“In the same way that people are always going to use drugs in Australia, they’re going to try to do so in such a way that they don’t end up in hospital,” he said.
“My fear is, they may be falsely reassured by the colour-test kits that are being distributed.”
Dr Caldicott said the aborted attempt also meant a great deal of data about the current drug market — which could help inform health professionals — would be lost.
“There’s a lot of people who are very nervous, who are working at the sharp end of the industry, who are very nervous about this season,” he said.
“This would have been an ideal opportunity to get a taste of what is actually out there, and now we’re not.”
A spokesman for ACT Policing said while the force supported harm minimisation, it did not condone illicit drug use.
“We will continue to target trafficking and possession,” he said.
“ACT Policing will be patrolling the festival to ensure people enjoy the event in a safe environment.”