VIC’s New Pill Testing Trial Will ‘Empower’ LGBT People To Party Safer

VIC’s New Pill Testing Trial Will ‘Empower’ LGBT People To Party Safer
Image: Image: JAMES ROSS / AAP Image

Earlier this week, Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan announced that a pill testing trial would be going ahead in Victoria.

This trial is an effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries of people who take recreational drugs at festivals and in nightlife venues. The Premier said that paramedics had attended more ODs at festivals in the first three months of 2024 than all of last year.

During the trial, people who want to take recreational drugs will be able to test pills, powders and liquids for the presence of deadly substances at festivals, as well as a fixed (but so far, unnamed) location in Melbourne.

Allan said that the Victorian trial will last 18 months, after which the service will become permanent.

In a post on social media, the Premier said that the new policy is life-saving, and based on evidence from medical professionals.

The Premier says she believes the trial will help people to make safer decisions when they’re out partying, and this will result in lives saved.

“No judgement, just facts. Honest, open, health focused conversations. That’s how we change young people’s behaviour and even reduce drug use,” she said.

“And that’s all pill testing is about. It doesn’t make pills legal but it does keep people safe.

“It exists around the world and the evidence says it works. This is a simple and commonsense way to save lives. That’s why we’re going to trial it in Victoria this summer.”


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Allan confirmed that the new policy is in direct response to a surge of overdoses at music festivals across Victoria.

“Let’s be clear, no drug is ever truly safe,” she said. “But people deserve to know if that one pill will kill, and if someone is asking for that information and we have the power to give it to them, then why on earth wouldn’t we?”

The Premier said she will be delivering more details about the trial this week.

Despite heavy medical evidence showing that pill testing saves lives, it is still a controversial issue. The only other places in Australia which have put pill testing measures in place are Queensland and Australian Capital Territory.

LGBTQI+ health organisations back pill testing

Star Observer spoke to Thorne Harbour Health’s CEO Simon Ruth, who said the LGBTQI+ health organisation is “thrilled to see Premier Jacinta Allen announce pill testing trials”.

“Thorne Harbour Health has had a stance on this issue for several years. We know that pill testing works,” said Ruth.

“We also know that our LGBTIQ+ communities use recreational drugs at higher rates than the general population. It follows that these trials will benefit our health and wellbeing and help to keep us safe.”

“We support a harm reduction approach to public health, meaning that we believe in practical strategies that minimise negative consequences associated with drug use, without requiring abstinence.

“Pill testing is one such strategy that empowers individuals to make their own choices about their health.”

Pill testing and other harm minimisation strategies are something advocates have been calling for for many years, and are backed by various medical institutions and professionals.

Associate Professor Shalini Arunogiri, who is Acting Executive Clinical Director of Turning Point and Associate Professor at Monash University’s Addiction Research Centre, said that news of the pill testing trial is “fantastic”.

“It is fantastic to see the Victorian Government pursuing an evidence-based health response that will help keep people safe and prevent harm,” said Arunogiri. “A genuine commitment to harm reduction and saving lives requires us to do things differently and this announcement does precisely that.”

“Drug checking has been effective at reducing illicit drug harms for decades globally and repeated polls show it’s an approach supported by a majority of Australians.”

LGBTQI+ people have higher rates of recreational drug use

Various studies show that LGBTQI+ people take recreational drugs at far higher rates than the remainder of the population.

These higher numbers are reported all around Australia, but also various places around the world, including the UK and the US.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report the following stats:

‘Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people can be at an increased risk of alcohol, tobacco and other drug problems (Department of Health and Aged Care 2017). These increased risks may come from many sources, including stigma and discrimination, familial issues, and lack of support.

‘In 2022–‍2023, almost 1 in 2 (47%) gay, lesbian or bisexual people had used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months, representing a substantial increase since 2019 when 40% had done so. This was largely driven by two factors, although small increases occurred across most illicit drugs:

  • The proportion who had used cocaine in the previous 12 months increased from 10.5% in 2019 to 15.1% in 2022–‍2023.
  • The proportion who had used a pharmaceutical stimulant (such as Ritalin or methylphenidate)’

According the Gay Community Periodic Survey for Melbourne in 2023,

“The proportion [of study participants] who reported using more than two drugs has trended upward since 2019 and increased from 28.6% in 2022 to 34.8% in 2023 .

“The most frequently used drugs in the six months prior to the 2023 survey were amyl/poppers (52.1%), cannabis (34.8%), Viagra (27.2%), and cocaine (25.0%). Over time, the use of Viagra, cocaine and ketamine has increased, while the use of amphetamine (speed) and crystal methamphetamine has decreased.”

Ruth says that there are several reasons the drug use numbers are higher for our community, including “a lack of safe and accessible spaces that aren’t based around alcohol and other drugs”.

“Many of us find community connection at bars, clubs, and festivals, but this can bring us into contact with recreational drugs more often.

“Pill testing would help our communities continue to enjoy these spaces in a safer way.”

Ruth believes that any LGBTQI+ folks who are planning to take recreational drugs should ensure they are armed with information.

“Our online resource hub,, offers many practical tips for our communities, including links to safe services, information on mixing drugs, and advice on chemsex.”

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