Pill-Testing: An Overdose of Inconsistency

Conservatives have noted the increasing tendency of Leftist commentators to adopt  positions of  moral superiority on almost all contentious issues of public policy, their occupation of the moral high ground thus automatically delegitimising any opposing view and, of course, obviating the necessity to engage with any objective arguments.

In recent days, an issue has emerged that I suspect will follow the same trend. I refer to ‘pill testing’.  At this time of the year we are routinely confronted by the distressing image of standard-issue, fun-loving youths dying at music festivals after ingesting dodgy ‘recreational’ drugs.  The answer, we are told, is pill-testing at music festivals so patrons can be assured their drugs are uncontaminated by lethal impurities. Here is the view of one such member of the general public as explained in The Australian’s Letters page on New Year’s Day:

Testing illicit substances at music festivals provides the information that anyone about to swallow a substance should have available to them before taking such action. It does not condone nor encourage taking illicit substances, but once the actual contents of the substance are known, it may deter such action and prevent serious consequences.

I don’t understand why this poses a dilemma. Surely testing is another way of preventing possible death.

On Sky News Professor Gino Pecoraro, a Brisbane obstetrician and gynaecologist, also opined that pill-testing does not in any way condone the taking of drugs.  He was most insistent on this point and, unfortunately, the show’s host, Peter Gleeson, didn’t call him to account. It is self-evident that pill-testing at music festivals does, without doubt, ‘condone’ taking illicit substances, much as the vetting for brucellosis condones and endorses the consumption of meat. Here is a definition as presented by the online English Oxford dictionary:

I rest my case.

Now it may be that pill-testers accompany their analyses with some degree of warning that an ‘all-clear’ result does not guarantee there will not be ill effects. But it is hard to imagine that would spend too much time or energy on this element — or, indeed, that someone eager to get high would pay much heed to such warnings. Similarly, any attempt to remind users that their drugs are often cooked up by amateur pharmacologists in kitchen-sink laboratories means that a sample taken from a surface scraping need not represent the rest of the pill.

There is general agreement that drugs are dangerous and their use should be discouraged; it is, after all, the rationale for the daily parade of users and vendors through our courts. The logic for pill-testing is that it prevents unnecessary deaths, a process of ‘harm minimization’, according to its proponents.

Yet surely a marked degree of cognitive dissonance is at work here. Consider the most recent example: in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond, a ‘safe injecting room’ has been established where addicts can shoot up in the knowledge that, should things wrong, their overdoses can be immediately treated by on-site medics. The centre opened its doors late last year, but what do we read now? Why, that Victoria Police have launched a massive blitz on Richmond drug dealers! So, with one hand the state ‘condones’ the use of drugs, on the other it attempts to limit the supply of the very commodity whose use the centre was opened to facilitate. Whatever they are smoking on smoking on Spring Street must be powerful stuff.

If preventing unnecessary deaths is the prime motivation, why not extend the pill-testing model to all spheres of modern life, rather than just music festivals?  Why are attendees at music festivals more worthy of saving than, say, Saturday night revelers at the local pub?  Why not have a pill-testing module at every police station if saving lives is paramount?

Professor Pecoraro believes that better educating people about the danger of drugs is also key. Really? Have pill-testing advocates learned nothing from the anti-smoking campaigns, which it cannot be denied have seriously reduced tobacco use over the course of 50 years of admonitions and prohibitions. Yet only the other day I met a 68-year-old ex-nurse who swore she would never give up. When and if she finally succumbs to one or more tobacco-related illnesses, she will at least be able to claim that she has paid taxes all her life and that, by virtue of the punitive excise on  her favoured vice, has probably more than covered the cost of her treatment. Not so for the youthful and comatose festival reveller who ends up on life support in the intensive care ward.

Of course we routinely condone risky behaviour that is legal, such as smoking, drinking, parachuting, hang gliding, skindiving and so on. And we accept the cost when things go wrong – when solo yachtsmen must be rescued, for example. The question seems to me: do we now accept that drug-taking fits into this same category – undesirable but, like death and taxes, inevitable?  If we allow pill-testing at music festivals that is the inevitable and undeniable result in the long run.

  • ianl

    The logistics in this “pill testing” proposal contain a contradictory essence, it seems to me.

    Presumably, some young person at one of these public rave parties buys a drug from someone in the crowd, or perhaps on the outside of the premises, who is actively and knowingly promoting illegal wares.

    The young person fronts the pill testing tent and asks for service. Since the drug is illegal, and bought from a “drug dealer”, the young person must be asked from whom the drug was purchased prior to testing. “I don’t know, I don’t remember, some bloke or other, never saw him before” should be sufficient to cause the drug to be held as evidence, at the very least for obstructing justice.

    So who would do this, then ?

  • en passant

    30 years ago I read in a newspaper that drug dealers were targeting certain schools – and named (among others) the one my daughters attended. When the pre-teen muppets came home I asked if they knew of anyone in their class taking drugs. Answer: about 30% in the elder ones class an a few in the younger ones. I took them out to a restaurant that night and then for a drive to the red-light area. where the witnessed girls selling themselves. Shock & awe. I then announce that if I ever hear of them even trying ANY drugs just once I would drive them here, give them $5 and wish them luck with their new life as there was no way back.
    Years later as adults they asked me if I was serious. I said if you thought I was and you never touched drugs, then you don’t need to know my answer.
    Pill-testing to help save lives of the weak and useless sheeples is just another step in the decline and fall of this civilisation.
    Several of my friends have had their children fall for the ‘just experimenting’ trick. One former academic and sporting high-achiever now occasionally works casually, when he is up to it. Now the wrong side of 30+, he is now and always will be just another advertisement for a drug-wasted life.

  • padraic

    Pill Testing is another deranged Greens policy that defies logic and human decency. The drugs themselves cause death, as one woman mentioned in a recent letter to The Australian newspaper. Saying that a drug being made in a grubby back shed by someone with halitosis is the cause of its fatal properties is garbage. MDMA has always been illegal and there is no recognized safe dose. MDMA could be made in a mainstream laboratory complying with TGA standards and sited high in the Austrian Alps and it could still kill you. If the example of death does not deter drug users it is puerile to think thousands of drug users at a music festival are going to be “goody-goodies” and turn up to get their harmful drugs tested. Yet the media and some politicians still push the Tooth-Fairy line of “harm minimization” which is another way of saying “legalise harmful deadly substances”.

  • Salome

    What sort of music is it that’s so bad that you have to take dangerous mind-altering pills to enjoy it? In other news, there’s a new meth derivative on the street that can cause its users to engage in behaviours that might result in their deaths. Well, that’s an improvement on standard meth, which can cause its users to engage in behaviours that might result in the deaths of other, innocent people.

  • Lawrie Ayres

    Salome makes a good point. From the little bit I have heard it is noisy crap unrelated to what most would consider music. This morning music festival organisers are encouraging a pill testing regime at events. Fine, but they should fund it and not taxpayers who one would assume are opposed to illegal drug sales and consumption. Drugs killed my eldest daughter on ANZAC day 2017 so I am anti drugs in any shape or form and I have a hatred for sellers and manufacturers. In my perfect world both would be jailed for a minimum 10 years with a minimum 30 years for re-offending.

  • padraic

    My wife agrees with Salome in that she says in her days people used to go to a dance and enjoy the music and the occasion without the need to take drugs. I am sorry to hear about your daughter Lawrie. My sincere sympathies. I am so angry that gutless politicians have let our country slide into this situation where just about every family has been affected by one or more of their children suffering serious consequences from taking drugs. It all started when the drug abuse industry conflated the “harm minimization” AIDS policy in the 1980s with drug abuse. Condoms can’t kill you but drugs do. The drug abuse lobby is always on about “The war on drugs has failed”. The “war on drugs” (an American slogan not an Australian policy) failed in Australia in the 1980s when “harm minimization” initiatives introduced by Labor replaced it. Since then, drug abuse has spiraled out of control, much worse than what it was in the 1980s and it is getting so out of hand that whole government departments and charities are devoted to “mental health” (code for the serious effects of drug abuse). We had very little of that before “harm minimization” of the 1980s.

  • DavidScown

    “What you tolerate you accept, and what you accept you endorse,” said a facilitator at a session on organisational culture. Pill testing easily fits as tolerance and implicit endorsement of activity which is known to be highly dangerous. As a teen in the 90’s drug education was taught at school and that painted a frightening picture of the consequences, which was backed up at Uni when studying chemistry and biochemistry. The production, distribution, and (depending on jurisdiction) possession of these substances is illegal and therefore a crime. The arguments about “recreational use” and “harm minimisation” belie the truth and appear symptomatic of a society which has no moral absolutes and is unwilling to say “No!” It also follows a trend of incrementally shifting norms of behaviour through a focus on seemingly innocuous change whilst ignoring the true cost; allow people to consume “safe” drugs, but ignore the cost to society of illicit drug use and dependence through associated crime, health care, and relationship breakdown.

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