Top Menu

2018 Articles RSS feed for this section

NCA’s decision on pill testing betrays public trust

The NCA’s willingness to potentially endanger the health and well-being of the community it supposedly serves is a betrayal of trust. The federal government’s complicity in allowing such a decision to stand, without evening engaging the medical and health professionals providing the pill-testing service, speaks to the lack of due diligence, perhaps even cowardice, in the decision-making process. […]

Plan for tackling Australian drug woes

Telling young people not to take drugs isn’t working. That’s according to the head of a national drug services organisation and a former Australian Federal Police commissioner. Instead, the nation should focus on reducing the harm caused by drugs, including offering pill testing at music festivals, the duo say. […]

It’s time to try a different approach to drug use

Will a strategic approach of harm minimisation absolutely stop the number of deaths from drug consumption? No. Might it reduce the number of deaths? Yes. Isn’t that enough of a reason to try a different approach to drug use? No doubt the Canberra pill-trial wasn’t perfect. But it demonstrated a willingness to admit prohibition is a failure. […]

Imagine if the media covered alcohol like other drugs

What if the media covered alcohol like it does other drugs? This was a question that came up in my coverage of flakka, a synthetic drug that made headlines after law enforcement blamed it for people running in the streets naked in delusional paranoia. What follows is a satirical attempt at capturing that same type of alarmist reporting, but for a substance that really causes widespread and severe problems. […]

Adelaide music festival to go ahead as police warn of ‘significant risk’ to party goers using illicit drugs

Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation president Dr Alex Wodak said additional police resources at music festival were doing more harm than good. “There were 120 police and 20 detectives at Defqon.1,” Dr Wodak said. “We have to recognise that relying heavily on law enforcement has been incredibly unsuccessful. “It is irresponsible of governments not to consider pill testing. […]

A Zero Tolerance Drug Policy Doesn’t Mean Zero Deaths

Two people died at Defqon.1 festival in Sydney over the weekend. Three others are in critical condition, and another 700 had to seek medical assistance during the festival. This has to stop, and it won’t stop through zero tolerance. […]

Richard Branson to launch Uniting-led campaign on drug reform

“A decriminalisation approach coupled with investment in harm reduction and treatment services can have a positive impact on both individual drug users and society as a whole. The Uniting Church in NSW and ACT is taking a leadership role in this important campaign, we are encouraging everyone to show their support for the need for a major change to national drug policy.” […]

How Pill Testing Would Work In Australia

The test, despite claims from politicians, does not give a rating on how safe the drug is. It simply allows people, who are already planning to consume a drug anyway, to know what they are about to put in their mouth. Caldicott said this information often led to people discarding their drugs, as evidenced by long-running programs in Europe and his own Canberra trial. […]

Drug response out of tune

I believe that we need to double down on our efforts to minimise the harm experienced by illicit drug users in Australia. These efforts should include the decriminalisation of addiction and the provision of pill testing. […]

To save lives, we must re-think our approach to drugs

Building a coordinated, evidence-based approach is the best way to ensure everyone’s safety. Moreover, these approaches are politically popular. A majority of people in NSW support pill testing and the safe injecting centre in Kings Cross. They are rational and realistic policy initiatives aimed at keeping people safe. […]

Time for clear thinking on party pills

In a similar vein, it is worth looking at the growing body of evidence about pill testing programs, especially in Europe. In the ACT a trial showed some potential benefits in terms of harm reduction and little evidence of making things worse. Ms Berejiklian should ask the panel to look at the evidence and consider whether trials of pill testing would make sense. […]

Gladys Berejiklian must listen to Adriana Buccianti after Defqon.1 deaths

It’s time the Berejiklian Government listened to grieving families, former police and experts all calling for more effective action on drugs-related deaths at festivals. Specifically, it’s time they entered the real world by shifting from a tin-eared approach of criminalisation on drugs to one of harm minimisation. […]

Defqon.1 deaths: sniffer dogs don’t deter revellers from drug use, researchers find

The presence of sniffer dogs at music festivals is almost completely ineffective at persuading revellers to abstain from drugs and could place them at greater risk of harm, according to new research that comes after the death of two people at a Sydney dance music festival. While the New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, faces criticism for again ruling out pill testing, instead vowing to ban the Defqon.1 festival, the paper by researchers Jodie Grigg, Monica Barratt and Simon Lenton brings the effectiveness of the government’s hardline stance into question. […]

When Australia held its first legal pill testing trial at Groovin The Moo festival in May, it exposed lethal drugs

The deaths of Joseph Pham, 23 and a 21-year-old woman from Melbourne has reignited calls for festivals to offer pill testing for harm reduction as the government’s “just say no” approach was slammed. Hundreds have taken to social media using the hashtag #timetotest calling on the government to change its strategy, and enforce pill testing, rather than just banning festivals. […]

The simple question MPs opposed to pill testing should ask themselves

How long can political leaders continue to delude themselves that their stern warnings prevent young people from taking drugs at youth music events? How long can they continue to claim, against the evidence, that saturation policing assisted by sniffer dogs substantially reduces the availability of drugs at these events? […]

Doctors’ body call for pill testing trial

The nation’s peak medical body has called for pill testing trials after two young people died of suspected drug overdoses at a major Australian music festival. Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone said law enforcement couldn’t be the only approach to solving the illicit drug issue. Testing could do more than verify whether illicit substances were in festival attendees’ pills, he said. […]

Two people die after attending Sydney’s defqon.1 festival

Harm minimisation group Sniff Off said it was “disgusting” Ms Berejiklian was “using the tragic loss of these two young lives to push her absurd ‘just don’t do drugs’ message, when it is the NSW government’s extreme overpolicing measures that allowed deaths like this to occur in the first place”. “Installing police with drug dogs at festivals only causes people to panic-swallow all their drugs at once, so it’s no wonder that people overdose,” it posted. […]

Report into legal cannabis short-sighted

Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm has described the decision by a Senate committee to recommend against passage of his Bill to remove Commonwealth restrictions on recreational cannabis as short-sighted. “An estimated 35 per cent of Australians admit to having used marijuana at some point in their lives, so it is pretty clear the policy of prohibition is not working. […]

Overdose is a policy issue, not an individual one

With the growing use of drug-induced homicide charges in the US, people are reporting fears to call 911 once again. Whereas people feared arrest for drugs and paraphernalia before, now the charge could be homicide. (It also cannot be stressed strongly enough that, if not for supply side enforcement, our illicit heroin supply would not have been adulterated with fentanyl. […]

Drugs statistics take the truth serum

What of illicit drugs? Turns out things are quieter there too. In fact, there may have been a little unnecessary panic. As Nigel Gladstone reports today, official statistics have indicated that drug crime in NSW is worse than it really is. Because of double-counting, 81,776 more drug busts than really happened were reported. […]

Questions over ‘war on drugs’ as data shows NSW drug busts were accidentally counted twic

Data used to back up the use of drug sniffer dogs at music festivals and praise police busts has been “double counted”, raising questions over the legitimacy of drug-related strategies in NSW. The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) said that drug-related crime statistics for NSW have been mistakenly inflated by the government’s official reporting agency for seven years. […]

Thousands of people use drug-testing facilities at UK music festivals

More than 8,000 people came forward to have their drugs tested at music festivals in the UK this summer. Testers found drugs four-times stronger than normal or being mixed with anti-malaria tablets and plaster. Service provider The Loop is compiling the information it gets from festivals for research it is planning to present to the Home Office and is aiming to attend more festivals in 2019. […]

War on drugs? Don’t bother

History records that prohibition never works and that trying to censor human appetites for anything addictive is doomed to fail. Announce drug laws and declare drug wars and you not only fill the prisons with a new category of innocent criminals and corrupt the justice system, but you create the violent criminality to make matters infinitely worse. […]

Shocking new statistics show cops are cracking down on us more than ever before, and critics say it is leaving us “humiliated”.

Incredible new statistics reveal a major increase in the number of strip searches on NSW residents over the past two years — and critics say the tactic is “humiliating” and a waste of everyone’s time and money. The figures, compiled for by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge, show the number of invasive searches on people in the state almost doubled from 2016 to 2017. […]

Is it time for Australia to decriminalise drugs?

Just five years after Portugal decriminalised drugs in 2001, illegal drug use by teenagers had declined, the rate of HIV infections among drug users had dropped, deaths related to heroin and similar drugs had been cut by more than half, and the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction had doubled – and drug use has not risen. […]

Don’t ostracize drugs users – empathize with them

Required for treatment is a multilevel approach that accepts people as they are, in which compassion replaces stigmatization and rehabilitation supplants punishment. This would include: Supervised drug-use sites in as many communities as feasible; for those who need them, medically supervised opiates or opiate substitute maintenance, while for others, abstinence-based programs, without legal or moral coercion; for all, personalized trauma therapy, recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. […]

$100K Fundraiser Launched For Pill Testing At More Aussie Festivals

Harm Reduction Australia (HRA) — part of the STA-SAFE Consortium, which ran the Groovin The Moo trial — is seeking to raise $100,000 so that it can host more pill testing programs across Australia. The group’s President and co-founder, Gino Vumbaca, tells Music Feeds that the money will allow HRA and STA-SAFE “to lease equipment needed, and depending on the location of festivals, do at least another four or five pill testing programs, possibly more depending on how much pro-bono support we get”.


Support sought for more pill testing

Harm Reduction Australia is hoping to raise $100,000 to roll out more music festival pill testing trials, following the success of the first pilot in Canberra. […]

Welfare drug test plan passes Lower House

“A recent Senate estimates hearing heard that overall the department expects only 100 to 120 people to test positive a second time across the three trial sites. That’s $1 million committed for an evaluation of a trial that is likely to impact up to 120 people, before we know how much the contract to the private provider will cost.” […]

Medical cannabis – the Australian experience

The lesson from Australia is this: if policy makers expect doctors to do all the heavy lifting, they must be supported. If patients who need medical cannabis are being blocked, the system must be changed. If a government legalises medical cannabis, they have committed themselves to making it available. And they should be held to account. […]

Drug test plan faces new Senate battle

Labor MP Emma McBride reflected on her experience with a harm-minimisation approach in her work as a mental health pharmacist at Wyong Hospital. “If the government is genuine in its claim to help those burdened by dependence, a good first step would be properly funding units like this one and not attacking welfare recipients,” she said. […]

Drug addiction is a tragedy. But we could stop so many people dying

Tackling deaths related to drugs isn’t easy to do. But we do know what works. Nobody wants to be dependent on drugs, but I know it can happen to anyone. I’ve seen the most improbable comebacks and the unluckiest of tragedies. I also know that everyone can get better with the right support. […]

Norway to give free heroin to 400 addicts: report

The Aftenposten newspaper reported on Thursday evening that Health Minister Bent Høie had asked the Norwegian Directorate of Health to draw up a list of which addicts were most suitable to receive so-called “heroin-assisted treatment”, and to assess the economic consequences of developing a heroin treatment program. […]

GINO VUMBACA. Drug Reform series-At last, a government sanctioned pill testing program

Governments across the country need to publicly acknowledge that our health and law enforcement systems have worked, and can continue to work, effectively together in the grey areas of life. No-one wants to see young people (or any people) harmed from drug use but to simply believe that we have the ability to prevent supply and prevent drug use is at best fanciful and at worst tragic. […]

TONY TRIMINGHAM. Drug Reform Series-Don’t punish drug users. Help them instead.

The need for drug policy reform remains as urgent as ever. We need to talk to our politicians, write to the newspapers, enlist the support of young people who are so often damaged by current drug policies. By educating people on the pitfalls of current drug policy, we stand a chance of getting the community onside. […]

The Wrong Way to Fight a Drug War

“Among all the presidents I’ve known, Duterte’s the only one who’s taken the drug problem seriously,” said Rechi Cristobal, a specialist I spoke with who has spent years as a counselor training health workers. Yet in tackling addiction, Mr. Duterte’s tactics may be harming more than helping. “It’s scared everyone to the point that instead of seeking help, they’ve just gone underground.” […]

Decriminalizing drugs: “We need a more compassionate approach”

Countries that have decriminalized personal drug use and possession and invested in public health interventions have seen positive results. For example, since decriminalization, Portugal has seen a reduction in drug use among vulnerable populations and increases in the number of people accessing treatment. There have also been significant decreases in HIV transmission (as high as 85 percent) and drug-related deaths. […]

Inside Rodrigo Duterte’s raging war on drugs

Though in the “barangay” slums [a small administrative district] drugs watch lists predate Duterte’s administration, he has used them to instil fear and to impose a paranoiac’s version of social order. Despite a reported spike of more than 50 per cent in the national murder rate [according to figures from July to November 2016 vs the same period in 2015], Filipinos are said to feel safer with Duterte’s nationwide “peace and order project” in full swing. […]

Why the fly-spray and toxic waste hysteria on synthetics has to stop

Instead of “metaphor” and melodrama we need facts. The whole field is littered with hyperbole, which is precisely what makes people overly cynical and no longer receptive to harm reduction messaging. When you tell a generation that MDMA is eating a hole in their brain and that turns out to be bullshit, they’re not interested in whatever legitimately harmful properties you might talk about. […]

NZ: Health Minister David Clark in favour of liberalising drug laws

Health Minister David Clark is personally in favour of more liberal drug laws because prohibition has not worked in the past. But Clark would not commit to abiding by the result of any referendum on loosening laws around cannabis use, saying he preferred to wait for advice from his colleagues. “I think it’s highly likely that that’s the course we would take … all I’ve said is I want to wait for advice.” […]

Drug users in outer Sydney need another medically supervised consumption room

Government and public health officials in Melbourne have recently agreed to the establishment of an injecting centre in their city, citing the success of the Kings Cross facility. It now seems entirely appropriate that a city as large, expansive and diverse as Sydney, and with its sizeable number of injecting drug users, should have the benefit of another one of these facilities. […]

Drug users shouldn’t be treated like criminals

When I am asked by people at the ceremony why people using drugs are treated as criminals and pursued by the law, I have to be honest and say I don’t know why, in the face of all the evidence, we have governments that still prefer to punish rather than help. […]

Media coverage of methamphetamine use “demonising”

SA Network of Drug and Alcohol Services executive director Michael White said claims methamphetamine was the most commonly used drug in SA were misleading. White expressed concern that the Business SA report and subsequent media coverage could have a harmful impact on methamphetamine users seeking treatment. […]

Draconian drug laws should be changed

Drug law reform has been gaining significant media attention, with the myths surrounding drug driving tests and sniffer dogs being exposed, as well as the successes of festival pill testing schemes. Those in favour of drug law reform seek harm minimisation and liberation from outdated laws, to stop drug laws being used as a pretence to harass the working-class, Aboriginal people, queer people, youth, and people of colour. […]

Why opioid dependence treatment is hampered

Treatment for opioid dependence is hampered by lack of availability, acceptability and affordability of treatment for affected Australians, say Angelo Pricolo, Harm Reduction Australia and ScriptWise. A new report, A Better System for Better Outcomes, outlines recommendations from a recent National Medicated Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence Summit hosted by the two national organisations. […]

NZ: Summer festival drug testing finds risky new drugs

Drug checking is gaining support overseas, with Australia’s ACT government planning to expand pill testing at events after a successful trial in May, and the UK Home Office last week stating that drug checking services are legal and it will not stand in the way of initiatives there. Allison believes it’s time the New Zealand government acted to support drug checking here […]

Support For Medical Cannabis In New Zealand Continues To Grow

The latest poll carried out by The Drug Foundation found  89 percent of those surveyed believe medical cannabis should be legal or decriminalised for patients a terminal illness, up significantly on its 2017 survey (81%). 87 percent said it should be available for pain relief (78 percent in 2017). […]

Policing illicit drugs: what works

In April 2018, the ACT government and the AFP agreed to conduct a pill-testing trial at the Groovin the Moo music festival. On the day of the festival, 85 substances were tested on behalf of attendees. Two of the samples were found to contain highly toxic chemicals. The AFP agreed not to target people who used the testing service; instead, officers went after those selling and trafficking drugs, resulting in one arrest. […]

Prison guards shouldn’t decide health policy, says former minister

Former ACT health minister and outgoing president of the World Federation of Public Health Associations  Michael Moore has renewed calls for a needle and syringe program in the Alexander Maconochie Centre, seven years after the ACT branch recommended one be set up. In an address on World Hepatitis Day, Mr Moore said while there had been breakthroughs in antiviral medicines, prevention was better – and cheaper in this case – than a cure. […]

Growing number of Kiwis want cannabis law reform

A new poll commissioned by the NZ Drug Foundation has found soaring public support for cannabis law reform. Support for legal or decriminalised access to cannabis for people with terminal pain has risen to 89 per cent, up from 81 per cent last year. The poll of 943 eligible voters took place between July 2-17. […]

SA Government drops jail time for cannabis possession

The maximum fine for cannabis possession will still quadruple under the laws, from $500 to $2000. The tough stance on cannabis possession had been criticised by Law Society president Tim Mellor as lacking “evidence-based justification”. “The Bill, in our view, fails to sufficiently recognise that drug addiction is a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue,” he said in a submission to the Bill. […]

Police & Harm Reduction

Based on the direct experiences of law enforcement officers from across the globe, this report showcases alternatives to common punitive models for policing, and presents recommendations for how to incorporate new, evidence-based harm reduction approaches that aim to increase public safety, public health, and public confidence. […]

Dutch cut overdose deaths by dispensing pure heroin

Public-health experts in the Netherlands say free distribution is one reason that drug-related deaths are far less common than in the United States. The program also has reduced crime and improved the quality of life for many users, according to Ellen van den Hoogen, who runs the clinic. […]

Pill testing at festivals has hidden benefits that could reduce drug taking

According to Dr Caldicott, there are two things that change young people’s minds about drug taking: “The idea that what they’re taking could kill them and the idea that they’ve been ripped off.” “We’re able to provide both of those messages,” he said. Research from overseas similarly suggests that pill testing can change people’s decisions around drugs resulting in reduced harm to users. […]

Triple J’s Hack Program Dispels Politician’s Claims That Testing Encourages Drug Use

“People don’t consume drugs not caring if they get hurt. The very fact that they’re testing their drugs means that they very much care if they’re going to get hurt or not, and we find the model of taking a doctor who knows an awful lot about illicit drugs and sitting someone down and saying, ‘Look, buddy, this is what we think is going on and we really think you’re better off not taking this particular drug’ [does work].” […]

Why Does the New York State Department of Health Want to Legalize Marijuana?

“The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts. Areas that may be a cause for concern can be mitigated with regulation and proper use of public education that is tailored to address key populations. Incorporating proper metrics and indicators will ensure rigorous and ongoing evaluation.” […]

Soz Conservatives, ‘ABC Fact Check’ Says Claims Pill-Testing Leads To More Deaths Are False


Toronto medical official calls for decriminalizing drugs as opioid overdoses skyrocket in Canada

With opioid-related overdoses and deaths reaching record levels in Canada, the top medical official in Toronto is calling for the decriminalization of all drugs as part of a strategy to treat illicit drug use as a public health and social issue, not a criminal one. In a report released Monday, Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s chief medical officer, urged the city’s board of health to pressure the federal government to eliminate legal penalties for the possession of drugs and to scale up “prevention, harm reduction and treatment services.” […]

There’s No Rational Way to Justify America’s Drug LawsL

People assume a medical committee sat down to consider which recreational drugs were the safest and least addictive, and tyyhis wise group decided alcohol and tobacco should be legal, while marijuana and everything else shouldn’t. That’s not what happened. […]

Decriminalising drugs will save our kids’

Throwing drug addicts in jail costs a lot of money. That money would be better spent on funding services such as rehabilitation and re-education. Any parent that has been down the road of trying to secure a place for their kid in a state rehabilitation program will understand the dire need of that extra funding. […]

UK: Police commissioners urge Home Office to drop opposition to addicts’ ‘fix rooms’

There are renewed calls for the UK government to allow the opening of a drug consumption room in Glasgow after three police and crime commissioners backed the idea as a way of saving lives. The elected commissioners for Durham, North Wales and West Midlands said they were “deeply concerned” about the Home Office’s opposition to the use of drug consumption rooms (DCRs), which are sometimes referred to as “fix rooms”. […]

’12 lives saved’ in Richmond safe drug injecting room’s first week

Melbourne’s new safe injecting room has saved 12 drug users’ lives and received 400 visits since it opened on Saturday, its director says. Dr Nico Clarke said the Richmond North centre, which is having a two-year trial, had prevented between one and three potentially fatal overdoses every day. […]

Most Australians support decriminalising cannabis, but our laws lag behind

The latest NDSH survey from 2016 found 73.9% of Australians do not support the possession of cannabis being a criminal offence. When asked how cannabis possession should be dealt with by the courts, 46.6% of Australians reported they would prefer either “a caution, warning or no action”, while 27% said users should be referred “to treatment or an education program” over more punitive measures. […]

Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Introduced By Sen. Chuck Schumer

New York Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a new bill to regulate marijuana at the federal level. The bill isn’t aimed at legalizing the drug but the proposal would decriminalize it. “The time to decriminalize marijuana is now,” Sen. Schumer said in a press statement. “The new Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is about giving states the freedom to be the laboratories that they should be and giving Americans—especially women and minority business owners as well as those convicted of simple possession of marijuana intended for personal use—the opportunity to succeed in today’s economy.” […]

The Loop is saving lives at UK festivals with its innovative harm reduction initiative

After the recent tragic deaths of two people at Mutiny Festival in Portsmouth, the issue of drug safety testing has been thrust into the spotlight once again. DJ Mag talks to Fiona Measham, founder of The Loop harm reduction organisation, about the work that they do and why some pill manufacturers are making their ecstasy so strong… […]

Drugs found in fewer than 15 per cent of sniffer dog searches in South Australia

Drugs have been found on fewer than 15 per cent of South Australians searched after sniffer dogs or electronic tests indicated they were carrying drugs, prompting questions about the legality of the search dogs being used in public areas. RMIT criminologist Peta Malins said the low return on the positive indications from the drug detection dogs raised real questions about the legal grounds for police searches. […]

Policing illicit drugs—big hauls are easily replaced

While I personally support the decriminalisation of the use of drugs by addicts, and the possession of these drugs for personal use, that too will not resolve the organised crime challenge. It will, however, help relieve the pressure on criminal justice systems from prosecutions of minor drug possession offences. […]

Harsher Penalties Could Really Hurt SA Medical Cannabis Patients

The South Australian Government wants to quadruple penalties for marijuana possession, a move that could seriously impact users of medical cannabis. South Australia decriminalised possession of small amounts of marijuana decades ago. However, Attorney General Vickie Chapman says the government is seeking to bring cannabis penalties into line with other drugs. […]

South Australia’s cannabis crackdown based on ‘nonsense’, experts warn

Alex Wodak from the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation said Chapman’s attempts to link cannabis use to murder were “nonsense”. Wodak said the policy shift “goes against everything we know” about reducing drug use harm and warned that SA risked falling “completely out of step” with the rest of the world. […]

Melbourne injecting room to open within days

Victoria’s first supervised injecting room will open its doors within days, marking the start of a two-year trial in inner-Melbourne, with the public to be given a glimpse inside the controversial facility. The site has been approved by state parliament, local councils, and was set up in consultation with medical experts after a spike in the number of drug deaths in North Richmond, Mental Health Minister Martin Foley told ABC radio on Friday. […]

Even the ACT Health Minister Wants to Legalise Drug Testing at Festivals

The ACT’s Justice and Mental Health Minister, Shane Rattenbury, agreed with STA-SAFE, telling the Guardian, “I’d certainly encourage [consultation between states]…It’s always hardest to do these things the first time, and we’d be very happy to share the knowledge we gleaned from [the trial].” […]

Government looks to expand pill testing in new drugs strategy

The ACT Government will look to expand pill testing at events in the ACT after the successful trial at this year’s Groovin’ the Moo Festival, and monitor safe injecting centres in other states to see if such a facility should be set up here. These are among a catalogue of harm-minimisation measures in a  new three-year Drug Strategy Action Plan developed with input from a range of stakeholders and released for consultation. […]

I lost both my sons to drugs – that’s why I want to legalise them

What Lakeman finds “impossible to get my head around” is the law’s refusal to apply the principle of harm reduction to drug use. “Every single other aspect of our lives is governed by trying to make things as safe as possible. The only thing we don’t do it with is drugs. […]