The pill testing medical service at Groovin the Moo Canberra has been hailed as a success after “deadly” substances were found in pills

Australia’s first pill testing trial took place on Sunday, at the Canberra stage of the Groovin the Moo music festival.

Until days before the festival took place, it was unclear whether the trial would be able to go ahead after successful negotiations with Groovin the Moo’s promoter, Cattleyard Productions.

The Ted Noffs Foundation, a member of the STA-Safe (Safety and Testing and Advisory Service at Festivals and Events) consortium, said that the service reduced harm by providing health advice to young people who had intended to take substances bought on an uncontrolled market.

It tested substances for 128 participants, and 85 samples were tested. Of these, two were “deadly,” says Ted Noffs Foundation CEO Matt Noffs. According to the ABC, these included N-Ethylpentylone (ephylone), which has been implicated in several mass overdoses.

Half of the substances tested included ingredients categorised as “other,” such as lactose, sweetener or paint.

The other half were “pure MDMA,” Mr Noffs said. Cocaine and ketamine were also found.

Health warnings and safety information was provided to all participants, and several participants used the amnesty bins to discard their drugs after finding out that what they had bought was not what they expected.

The trial had the full support of the ACT Police and ACT Government as a harm reduction measure.

The Ted Noffs Foundation says that feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with many participants telling the testing team that they would either reconsider taking, or take less of, the substances they had bought.

“We’ve just taken a big step towards taking back control of the dangerous black market in drugs in order to keep our kids safe,” Matt Noffs says.
“Any teenager can get drugs on the street corner. This is about giving them information and advice that can save lives and help them make safer decisions.

“The pill testing medical service will also provide valuable information to police and health experts about the kind of substances currently being pushed on the uncontrolled market.”

A number of stakeholders praised the decision to go ahead with the trial, as well as its outcome.

They included ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, who told Sky News that “this is not about condoning drug taking”.

Instead, the pill testing service involved conversations about the risks involved with taking the drugs, letting people know their ingredients, and discussing the consequences of consuming the substances, he said.

“They said to me yesterday that they’d spoken to a lot of people about why they were taking drugs, and had that conversation about potentially reducing their drug taking behaviour… it’s really very much an education process.”

Mr Rattenbury told the AJP recently that he would like to see pill testing take place outside music festivals and in the community. A potential role for community pharmacists “needs to be further explored,” he said at the time.

A number of other drug and alcohol experts also praised the trial service.