Greens call for pill testing trial in the ACT


“The Four Corners program revealed that an alarming 400,000 young people are currently using recreational drugs and the number of deaths and hospitalisations as a result of drug use are rapidly increasing,” said Mr Rattenbury.

“Only $40m is spent nationally on harm reduction and $1.2b on law enforcement, clearly this approach is not working and clearly the problem isn’t going away.

“While the ACT doesn’t have the same number of music festivals and events as other jurisdictions, there is still a significant drug scene in Canberra and it is an issue we need to address.

The latest National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre data (2014)[1] shows that ACT drug users self report that ecstasy and related drug use are the most likely causes for them to seek medical treatment for overdose.

“The reality is that most drug takers are unaware of the origin and chemical make-up of what they put into their body – the MDMA content in an ecstasy tablet can vary from 5%-60%.  

“Even more concerning, many such pills contain a range of substances from tranquilisers to amphetamines, meaning many users are effectively playing Russian-roulette every time they take something.

“I would like to see the ACT lead a multi-pronged pill testing pilot proposal that includes:

  • maintaining the important messages to prevent drug use occurring;
  • strengthening police services that actively target trafficking and dealing; and,
  • reviewing our approach to harm reduction at the coal face of drug use where people have decided, despite all of the above, to take drugs.


“While we must of course continue to promote messages that warn against the dangers of taking drugs and continue our police enforcement measures, it is clear that we have not been able to stop people from engaging in drug taking activity.

 “A pill testing trial could involve an approach whereby the individual anonymously provides a small shaving of their pill for analysis in a mobile testing station that would determine its chemical make-up, allowing the user to be better informed about the substance they are about to put into their body.  

[i]This information can then also be used to enhance and support policing and health activities, in providing a reliable and growing data base on new or ‘novel’ substances, and help government design more effective interventions.

“We need to equip users who are not listening to current warnings with information about what they are putting into their bodies so at least they can make informed choices, rather than putting their lives in the hands of drug dealers they have never met.

 “As the former Head of Australian Federal Police, Mick Palmer, has said, our current approach is failing.

“Additional ambulance officers, health warnings, drug detection dogs, police and security staff did not stop people taking drugs at these recent events, and to ignore this will see more lives lost in the future.

“It is clear that we as a society, and we as legislators, have a responsibility to really question what we can do to improve safety, and prevent these deaths,” said Mr Rattenbury.

Statement ends