Tras la trágica muerte de una joven después de que se tomara un comprimido sin identificar en el festival de música Stereosonic, David Caldicott se pregunta qué más se puede hacer para minimizar los daños. Más información, en inglés, está disponible abajo.

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By David Caldicott

This weekend saw the tragic death of a young woman after she took an unidentified tablet at the Stereosonic music festival. Drug-related deaths of this type are not uncommon in Australia, and this raises the question of whether our approach to harm minimisation needs reform.

Ten years ago the Australian Medical Association passed a resolution backing research on testing illicit drugs in Australia to see what they actually contained, in an attempt to reduce consumption, overdose and death.

Previously called “pill testing”, “drug checking” gives a consumer the opportunity to know what is in their product prior to consuming it. It also allows alcohol and drug researchers to access what is largely an invisible cohort of functional consumers.

Its origins lie in the European dance music scene, with the emergence of counterfeit and contaminated pills. Consumers often feared something in the products they were consuming could be dangerous to them. But with no regulation, there was no way to find out.

A decade ago, when we conducted research at the Enchanted Forest “raves” in South Australia, that was what we were concerned with too. But a decade is a lifetime in drug-market years. We are now faced with the most dangerous drug market in years.

Novel compounds previously undescribed in human toxicology, and MDMA (methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, or, ecstasy) of a purity and dose never seen before, are all available through the internet and untraceable cryptocurrencies. From what I’ve observed as an emergency physician, this has been one of the worst starts to the music festival season ever, in terms of harm from overdoses.

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Thumbnail Flickr CC Piasentin