Pill Testing At Festivals Saves Lives So Why Aren’t We Just Doing It?

In 2018 we got hard, tragic evidence on what saves the lives of young people and what does not. It's time to stop talking and start acting.

On the weekend, 19-year-old Callum Brosnan died after what is suspected to be an adverse reaction to drugs while attending the Knockout Games of Destiny rave in Sydney.

In September two people died at the Defqon.1 event, also in Sydney. And we’re only at the beginning of the festival season.

Now, there are a couple of ways to address this so that it doesn’t happen again.

One is to go the law enforcement route with the hopeful end point of getting rid of recreational drugs altogether – a policy which has been adopted by Australia and much of the rest of the world for 50-plus years, and which has shown zero sign of working.

“Here’s hoping someone else dies instead of you. Toodles!”

The other is harm minimisation, where the “drugs are bad and dangerous” message is leavened with “…but if you’re going to take them, they should be taken as safely as possible”.

And at festivals, that includes pill testing.

Case in point: at the Groovin’ The Moo event in Canberra earlier this year there was a pilot pill testing project. And they found two pills with potentially deadly chemicals in ’em, which the people holding them did not therefore take.

That’s two potential deaths that didn’t happen. Two funerals which didn’t happen. Two families not torn apart. Two communities not in mourning. Two young people that went to a music festival, had a great time, then went home and got on with their lives.

The NSW government, however, see things differently.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian insisted that adopting a harm minimisation approach would give people a “green light to take substances”.

Except, as we know, people aren’t waiting for a green light from their government in order to take drugs. Case in point: all of the cases, ever.

Although this green light is admittedly pretty trippy.

Her message was slightly finessed with Today, telling them that drug testing isn’t useful because… um, some people are immune to poison, or something?

“If we thought it would save a single life, of course we would go down that path,” she confusingly claimed. “Unfortunately, what pill testing doesn’t do is really take into account people’s different physical attributes. What is safe for one person isn’t safe for another.”

“We brought in some pretty substantial changes, including increase penalties… for those supplying those illegal drugs,” she insisted. “The strongest thing we can do is to send a message to young people: please don’t take any illegal substance.”

Sorry, Gladys, that’s the strongest thing you can do? Say “nah, don’t”?

The Just Say No campaign was invented in 1982 and hasn’t seemingly eliminated drug use in the 36 years since, but the NSW government is banking on it finally getting results any old tick of the clock?

Honest to god, the second you say “you don’t need drugs to have a good time” you’ve lost the respect of any young person watching, Grandma. Because what they hear is “we don’t care about your opinions”. And they’re not wrong.

And this is made all the more clear because the response from the government appears to be to consider shutting down festivals – which the Premier announced plans to do with Defqon.1 – rather than address the actual issue.

Then again, Berejiklian was also in the state government that responded to street violence with lockouts which did less-than-stellar things for Sydney’s CBD entertainment precincts.

And there’s an argument that young people, excited and inexperienced and not great at assessing risk, shouldn’t face a death sentence for doing a far from unusual or unpredictable thing because they crave a moment of feeling good. Which is why people take recreational drugs.

We’re at a point now where we know what doesn’t save lives – what we’re doing – and what does save lives. Pill testing is in category B.

To not do it now, knowing what we know, is to say that political rhetoric is more important than the actual lives of young people.

A Computer Combined Morrissey Lyrics With Fitness DVD Reviews And Wrote The World's Best Song

Finally, a horrifying automated future we call all agree with!

Do you remember that amazing Harry Potter chapter created by a computer loaded with a neural network and all of JK Rowling’s output, entitled Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash?

Or the fake Coachella line up made by feeding a neural network band names, creating such real-sounding headliners as Lil Hack, Fanch and One Of Pig?

Well, the folks behind both the above triumphs – Botnik Studios – have been hard at work training predictive text and neural networks to solve the problem of music for their debut album, The Songularity, which has recently hit its target on Kickstarter. And this is possibly going to be the greatest album of all time.

For example: it contains a song written using predictive text on a system trained on Morrissey and Amazon reviews of the P9OX Home Workout DVD System.

And the result is… well, possibly the greatest song in human history.

Well, we did say possibly the greatest song in human history. Individual results may vary.

But certainly, if you’ve ever felt that the Smiths were musically OK but really needed more lyrics about getting ripped, then Botnik have you comprehensively sorted.

And while the album has hit its target, there are still some stretch goals there for those that wish to contribte – including this one, sadly open only to US backers:


Who wouldn’t want this played at them from outdoors by a trenchcoated John Cusack-alike? NO-ONE IS WHO.

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