Following another death at a music festival over the weekend, there is more evidence to back up the claim that testing pills at events is far more effective than a visible presence of police and sniffer dogs at parties and festivals. The death of the 23-year-old woman which is suspected (though not yet confirmed) to be drug-related occurred at the Dragon Dreaming Festival in Wee Jasper in New South Wales on Sunday.
Police had made their concerns regarding the event’s safety clear, having put forward formal objections in the lead up to the festival. Superintendent Zoran Dzevlan has since stated that police will push for the 2016 event to be cancelled. Over the course of the weekend, there were 78 drug detections, 20 positive random tests from festivals goers exiting the event and three individuals charged with supply. The death of the young woman came after the festival announced that punters could expect police presence upon arrival.
These deaths are clear indications that Australia’s approach and attitudes towards drugs, particularly at events, needs to change. As one doctor told the Medical Republic, Australia has “an uncanny requirement to prove things locally.” While drug testing services have has had proven positive preventative effects in other countries, ours is lagging behind, refusing to start similar initiatives as more people engage in high-risk behaviours like pre-loading and mass consumption before stepping through event gates and purchasing pills that may not actually be what they think they’re buying.
Additionally, the sniffer dog program costs the state of NSW over $800 000 every year in training and staffing, despite the fact that 73% of people identified by the dogs are not carrying drugs. If they are, they’re usually small amounts of cannabis. The testing of drugs is not a “surrender on the war on drugs” but rather provides law enforcement with information to link pills responsible for deaths to their manufacturers, ultimately giving them the capabilities to better protect punters.
For more information about how you can stay safer if and when you decide to take drugs, especially at music events, read this.