By Mary Ward

One in three music festival attendees says fear of getting in trouble with police would deter them from seeking help in a drug-related emergency, as advocacy groups call for harm-reduction policies, such as pill testing, to be revisited with the return of large events.

New research from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, published in Drug and Alcohol Review on Tuesday, found three-quarters of young people who attended big music festivals in Sydney reported at least one reason they would avoid seeking help for an overdose or medical issue caused by illicit drugs.

For 35 per cent of respondents, and 41 per cent of drug users, fear of police becoming involved was a deterrent. Other barriers included not knowing where to find help (20 per cent of respondents) and concern about family or friends finding out (15 per cent).

Dr Jonathan Brett, a drug and alcohol specialist who co-authored the study, said the results indicated there needed to be better dialogue between police and the public.

“We need to rethink the black-and-white policy of ‘say no to drugs’,” he said.