Won’t pill testing just encourage drug use?

If someone has purchased pills, they’re already intending to take them. By giving people information about what’s in them, we can make it safer – instead of taking a pill with methamphetamine, fentanyl, or unexpected amounts of MDMA, people are far more likely to throw it out.

We’ve seen results from overseas that show that use can drop when people test their pills. These established services in Vienna, Amsterdam and Hanover show that people will also take fewer pills, if they’re found to be stronger.

In a pill testing trial at Groovin’ The Moo in Canberra, almost 40% of people ended up binning pills that turned out to be potentially unsafe.

Don’t people already know the risks?

The vast majority of pills won’t end up taking a life – so for people who take drugs, it’s a gamble that they’ve already decided to take.

Every year, people lose their lives after taking dangerous pills. Our current system puts such a huge focus on the morality of drug taking, so much so that there is little room for discussion of the science. With new illicit substances constantly appearing on the market, people often have no idea what they’re taking. Pill testing provides a legitimate space for people to learn about the health risks they face and get support if needed.

Won’t it be too hard to change state and territory laws?

We don’t need to change any laws to operate these sites. Police can already choose not to target people attending drug and alcohol services, because they understand the benefits they provide. The Australian Greens will work with police in every state and territory to ensure that this discretion is extended to our testing sites. In future we do want to see laws changed, but that’s not needed for this pill testing to get started.

Will your proposal mean that no one dies from taking pills?

No medical or health procedure can 100% guarantee a result, and pill testing won’t be an exception. However, it will give people vastly more information than they can get right now, and provide many people with their first drug related chat with an expert.

We also know that pill testing changes the market for drugs. When dealers know that people can find out what’s in their product, they’re less likely to mix in dodgy or dangerous ingredients.

How much will it cost?

$16 million across the next 4 years. To put that in perspective, that’s about the same as the amount Australia spends on stopping illicit cigarettes coming into Australia every single year. OR that’s about the same amount Australia is spending on investigating the impacts of firefighting chemicals.

That will get us:

  • 18 pill testing services in major cities and rural areas, each with a world-leading testing machine and open 10 hours a day and 4 days a week. They’ll be staffed by three staff members and two security guards.
  • The Australian Drug Testing Agency, which will set up and direct these services, working with law enforcement, health groups and consumers.
  • A national drug warning system, that will provide information about different pill varieties and provide broad advice via the internet.

The additional funding for research will be funded through the Australian Greens commitment to adequately funding innovation and research nationwide.

Where will the funding come from?

The funding for this proposal could come from one of two national Australian Greens health initiatives- the scrapping of the Private Health Insurance rebate, or the legalisation of cannabis. Combined, these two initiatives would put $7 billion back into our health system – enough to implement this strategy and much more.

Isn’t pill testing inaccurate?

Many people would be familiar with simple and cheap online testing kits, which can give clues about pill contents via a reagent based process. They’re like a school science experiment – whereas our plan uses laboratory grade equipment.

This process is very accurate and provides a complete analysis of all the substances in a pill or powder. If more accurate methods of testing are developed we will strongly consider implementing these in the pill testing sites as soon as feasible.

Where will these independent services actually go?

The first six services will be piloted in capital cities across Australia, and over the following three years twelve more will be launched – with at least four of these in major rural hubs.