Festival pill tests backed by public


Almost two-thirds of Australians support pill testing at music festivals, according to new research that also reveals how opinions are highly polarised across the political spectrum.

Data from the 2019 Australian Election Study survey, conducted nationally immediately after that year’s federal election – showed that 63 per cent of the 2,179 respondents supported testing.

In contrast, only 21 per cent opposed pill testing. Only a small amount of respondents were unsure – or occupied “the middle ground” as the authors said.

Young people and those who do not attend church were most likely to express support, while those who voted for one of the two main conservative parties were less likely to support pill testing

“While a majority of the public support pill testing, beyond the Australian Capital Territory this has not translated into policy in other jurisdictions,” the authors said.

“The results show that there is a high level of political polarisation surrounding opinions among both voters and political elites”.

The survey results mirrored those from the 2019 Australian Candidate Study, a national survey of all
candidates standing in the election. Of the 368 valid responses to this survey, 66.8% supported pill testing, “very close to the estimate for the population,” the current authors said.

“However, there were major party political divisions. While 75.6% of Labor candidates and 95.5% of Green candidates supported pill testing, just 6.0% of Liberal-National Coalition candidates did so”.

“As we show here, these deep partisan divisions are also reflected in those of their supporters in the electorate”.

The issue has been a hot topic for a number of years. Late last year, a coroner who was investigating the deaths of six young people at music festivals called for an immediate pilot pill testing program to be introduced.

Both the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) and the National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association (NAPSA) have previously backed calls for pill testing programs at music festivals and endorsing the ACT pilot program.

Others, such as Melbourne pharmacist and harm minimisation campaigner Angelo Pricolo have said that pill testing in community pharmacy could be an even better approach than such analysis at festivals.

“So long as political leaders largely oppose pill testing, changing their views will be difficult, despite polling
data showing majority support among voters,” the survey authors said.

They pointed out previous research arguing that Australia has “lagged behind many comparable nations in drug policy due to the absence of organised public pressure for change”.

“This suggests that there needs to be a long term commitment to public campaigns for drug reform in
Australia,”

The research was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.

 

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