COMMUNITY groups have called on the Victorian Government for a pill testing trial in an effort to promote harm-minimisation and safe drug use in the community.

The move follows a recent report on drug-related deaths that aired on ABC’s Four Corners program.

The Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) and Harm Reduction Victoria (HRV) are advocating for pill testing at events and parties where trained staff will be able to give drug users more information about what they’re taking.

VAC chief executive Simon Ruth said pill testing was all about saving lives.

“It doesn’t encourage drug use – like needle use it’s accepted that this is going to happen in the community,” he told the Star Observer.

“This would help the people who take these sorts of drugs and are unsure of their harm.

“It would help them to understand not only about their safety on the spot but also the safety of those around them.”

Ruth said pill testing has already proven effective in areas around the world.

“Pill testing is evidence based and has been used in Europe for 15 years,” he said.

“People are concerned of the impact these drugs will have on them, because they don’t know what might be in the pills sold as ecstasy or MDMA.

“Particularly something like methamphetamines [crystal meth], where you could be awake for 24 hours… do you really want to go on that yoyo ride?”

Results from the largest study of legal and illicit drug use among men who have sex with men were recently released. It found that over 75 per cent of respondents had used illicit drugs at some stage.

It also revealed that over 25 per cent of respondents had used “party drugs” in the last six months such as cocaine, ecstasy, and crystal meth.

HRV president Bill O’Loughlin has seen the demand for pill testing through his organisation’s DanceWize program.

“We give out information about the impact and risks of different drugs, and people are constantly asking about pill tests,” he told the Star Observer.

“They know that it would help them to know exactly what’s in their drug.

“I’ve already been talking to doctors willing to be part of the trial, as well as drug and alcohol researchers, so we could have it up and running in a couple of months – just in case the government is concerned about committing.”

O’Loughlin added it would help educate people on how to use drugs sensibly.

“People are using drugs in concerning ways, like taking ecstasy three or four times in a short space of time, so we need education around sensible drug use,” he said.

“There seems to be a pattern where people are taking a couple of things at once, it’s become the fashion… and because no-one has done anything about the risks, people copy others.

“Particularly within gay men’s party scenes we need to start educating gay men around thinking how they use drugs.”

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