Everyone At Every Falls Festival Received A Safety Alert About A Dangerous Orange Pill

Stay safe, everyone.

Organisers of the Falls Festivals, which are currently on in Tasmania and Victoria and kick off this week in NSW and WA, sent an emergency alert text to ticketholders for each event warning them of an “extremely dangerous orange pill” that’s in circulation around the country.

A longer message posted on the festival’s Facebook and Twitter accounts spread the message further, including to people who might be considering taking something on New Year’s Eve at other events or parties.

Although we’ve had a safe Falls Festival to date, our medical teams have alerted us to a dangerous orange pill that is currently in circulation across Australia. Regardless of pill variation, we want to remind everyone of the potentially fatal risks that come with illicit substances. You do not know what is in them, how your body will react, there is no safe level of consumption.

“One pill can kill.”

The festival confirmed to an ABC Hobart journalist that there were no specific incidents at any of the festivals – the medical teams were aware that the bad pills are currently going around, and organisers felt it warranted a precaution.

The alert comes the same day as the news that a 22-year-old man died after taking an unknown substance at Lost Paradise festival in NSW’s Glenworth Valley, and two more people were hospitalised.

There has been no suggestion that the orange pill was responsible for either the death or the hospitalisations.

However, it’s worth noting that party drugs are an unregulated black market product, meaning you never know what you’re getting.


While the safest thing is not to take anything, embracing on-site pill testing at festivals can help mitigate the risk and puts people planning to take substances in front of trained medical professionals before they take anything – and it might have saved lives in the ACT this year already.

But while pill testing is still being resisted by governments around the country despite the evidence supporting it – meaning organisers can’t have it at their events even if they want to – an alert like this is a valuable step in harm minimisation.

It acknowledges that drugs are a normal part of a festival experience for plenty of young people, and folks are going to end up taking whatever they buy – unless they have further information that offers a compelling reason not to, beyond the tired “drugs are bad” rhetoric.

Here’s hoping everyone has a fun and safe New Year’s, and that 2019 is the year that governments take their fingers out of their ears and embrace drug policies that work in the real world.

After Two Deaths At Defqon.1, The NSW Premier Wants To Ban The Festival, But Refuses To Have A Grown-Up Conversation About Pill Testing

Gladys Berejiklian wants to shut down the dance festival, as well as any discussion of a strategy that's already saved lives in Australia this year.

It’s a horrific start to summer festival season already: two people are dead and at least three more are critically ill after collapsing at the Defqon.1 dance event in Sydney yesterday.

A 23-year-old and a 21-year-old both died in Nepean Hospital, and while no official cause of death has been reported, the media and political conversation is all about drugs.

Renewed calls for officially sanctioned drug checking trials to begin in NSW were met with the usual brick wall.

“Anyone who advocates pill-testing is giving the green light to drugs. There is no such thing as a safe drug and unfortunately when young people think there is, it has tragic consequences,” state premier Gladys Berejiklian reportedly said, later adding that she would seek to ensure the event would no longer be allowed in NSW.

The word “safe” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. Taking any kind of illicit, psychoactive or intoxicating substance is a risk. People who do it know there’s a risk, but it’s a calculated one. It’s not that drug users believe it’s definitely safe – they believe it’s probably safe. They believe that they’ll be taking the drug they paid for.

The relatively minor risk of harm isn’t enough to turn a significant number of people off the idea of an afternoon or night of feeling euphoric, energised and connected.

When politicians and others advocating against harm minimisation strategies say something like “there’s no such thing as a safe drug” they’re conflating the risk of the substance you’re planning on ingesting and the substances you don’t know you’re ingesting.

Pure MDMA, for example, is “one of the least dangerous drugs known” according to drug policy and harm minimisation experts Alex Wodak and Gideon Warhaft.

But molly is a black-market product, adulteration is very common, and the odds of getting pure MDMA aren’t in the buyer’s favour. A death might result from an overdose – as strength and dosage can’t be confirmed or regulated either – but it also might result from contaminants.

When the ACT pill testing trial finally managed to go ahead at Groovin’ The Moo’s Canberra leg this year, there were two samples found that had lethal substances in them.

That’s at least two potential deaths or serious injuries averted.

At the UK’s Secret Garden Party festival in 2016, a drug checking facility saw a quarter of users ditch their drugs after finding they weren’t what they’d paid for.

Defqon.1, the event, is safe. Drugs should be as safe as possible – people are always going to take them, but they are currently being denied accurate and relevant information about what they’re taking.

Prohibition and over-policing is not safe. Young people are going out and putting the party-drug equivalents of homemade bathtub gin in their bodies because the only message coming from the government is the laughably unrealistic insistence on abstinence.

Pill testing isn’t encouraging people to take drugs any more than, say, giving out free condoms in a high school health class is encouraging teenagers to have sex.

It’s an acknowledgement of the reality that they’re going to do it anyway, and a signal that people’s actual lives and safety are valued over the pursuit of a hypothetical utopia where nothing bad ever happens. It’s not a green light – it’s a seatbelt, a crash test, a sign that says CAUTION on a dicey stretch of highway. 

The time for empty finger-wagging – and demonising promoters and clubs, who are actively being denied opportunities to keep their patrons safe – is over.

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