Music festivals come and go every year, but they’re always sure to leave long-lasting memories. Groovin the Moo was no exception; held in Maitland and Canberra over the weekend, with artists including Billie Eilish, Flosstradamus, and Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker). While they were there, over two hundred festival-goers had their pills tested, which resulted in seven deadly substances being detected.
The team from Pill Testing Australia, with support from the ACT government, tested samples from various and identified traces of deadly pills including n-ethylpentylone. It’s a drug that looks similar to MDMA, but according to someone who’s taken it before, is ‘ten times worse than meth’.
The seven pills were immediately thrown in the amnesty bins before they could be consumed. Out of all the tested pills, the most commonly found drugs were MDMA, cocaine, ketamine, and methamphetamine. The success of the trial came a year after it debuted at Groovin the Moo 2018, with two samples being discovered to contain deadly substances.
Pill Testing Australia, led by Dr David Caldicott, aims to “offer free pill testing trials in any state or territory in Australia”. Appearing on Q&A earlier this year, he said to the panel:
“I think it’s inevitable that in due course we’ll see certain additional drugs, which we now regard as illegal, being used for recreational purposes in Australia… I don’t think we have any nuance in the manner in which we approach drugs, with the way we talk to young people… if we have a more sophisticated conversation with young people, and listen to their voices, we might get to the place of safety that we all crave far faster.”
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) February 18, 2019
ACT is currently the only state (yes, we know it’s technically a territory) in Australia to allow pill testing. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian stands firm in her belief that pill testing doesn’t work, and that there’s no evidence for it. During the last festival season in NSW, five people tragically lost their lives due to overdosing at Defqon.1, FOMO, and Lost Paradise. This prompted the Berejiklian government to crack down strict regulations on future music festivals.
What the NSW government fails to understand is that eliminating festivals altogether isn’t going to eliminate drug use, just like how the lockout laws haven’t completely stopped alcohol related violence, despite being implemented five years ago. The fact that over two hundred people opted to have their pills tested shows that people want to be more informed about what they’re putting in their bodies; and with medical services on site, we can prevent less fatalities and casualties than before.
Australia has to get over current ban on #pilltesting. Yes large numbers of young people like to take some drugs now & then that oldies didn’t take. And they’re going to keep taking them. So the options are: more deaths & hospital admissions or fewer deaths & admissions. https://t.co/tPpxrZ9SHv
— Alex Wodak (@AlexWodak) April 27, 2019
Whether or not you agree with recreational drug use, getting rid of music festivals isn’t the solution. Not every festival goer is a drug enthusiast. But everyone is there for the same reason, to enjoy live music you can’t experience anywhere else. Music festivals bring together people from all over, and there’s just something euphoric about how a crowd of strangers can get together to all sing along to the same words.
It’s right there in Groovin the Moo’s tagline: It’s our home away from home.
Photo Credit: Mackenzie Sweetnam via Groovin’ The Moo.