Pill testing is a furphy that can only spread drug usage

Pill Testing: Arguments For and Against
Catholic Weekly 24 January 2019
Family First Comment: “Advising a potentially allergic user to take only half a 100 per cent pure MDMA pill won’t help anymore than eating half a peanut instead of the whole will stop anaphylactic shock for those allergic to peanuts. With that knowledge, the results of this pill testing push will be frightening. What better way is there to broaden the pool of prospective drug users than to suggest pill testing makes ecstasy use safer? Expect an accelerating number of deaths from this craven misinformation… Why aren’t the pill testing promoters telling the truth about ecstasy, saying pill testing is about safety when it’s not? Maybe there’s something to hide, like another agenda.”

Every death from a party pill in Australia has a toxicology analysis of what caused the death in the coroner’s report, so there are no mysteries about what is causing these deaths.

But here is the appalling news – the cause is very different from what you are hearing from pill testing proponents and from an Australian media that has largely failed its due diligence on this story.

The only Australian study on an extensive number of ecstasy-related deaths looked at 82 coroners’ reports from between 2001 and 2005. First, that is a lot of under-reported ecstasy deaths in five years. Second, 23 per cent of those deaths were caused solely by the MDMA in the pill. Another 59 per cent were caused by MDMA when used with other legal and illegal drugs.

Conclusion? Eighty two per cent of the 82 deaths reviewed were directly attributed to MDMA. Ecstasy is the killer. Third, none of these 82 deaths were from impurities or other unknown drugs in the pills. And recent coroners’ reports concur. The Daily Telegraph reported on 15 January that Professor Dawson had indicated MDMA was implicated in early toxicology tests on four recent NSW deaths.

The other evidence-free assertion we keep hearing is that many deaths are from MDMA ‘overdoses’. The truth is that MDMA overdoses are rare, with most deaths from a single pill or from MDMA ingestion within the normal range of recreational use.

Even Harm Reduction Australia’s senior organisation, the US Drug Policy Alliance, says ecstasy overdoses are rare. So why does HRA keep promoting this dangerous myth that misleads the public into thinking the MDMA purity of a single pill needs quantifying?

Why, then, are people dying? The reality is that most deaths outside polydrug use are due to something akin to an individual allergic reaction to MDMA. In 1995, Anna Wood took the same tablet as five other friends, but she was the one that died.

So, advising a potentially allergic user to take only half a 100 per cent pure MDMA pill won’t help anymore than eating half a peanut instead of the whole will stop anaphylactic shock for those allergic to peanuts.

With that knowledge, the results of this pill testing push will be frightening. What better way is there to broaden the pool of prospective drug users than to suggest pill testing makes ecstasy use safer? Expect an accelerating number of deaths from this craven misinformation.

There are practical issues too. John Lewis, a forensic scientist at UTS, says pill testing equipment will never provide safety because scrapings from a pill wrongly assume that contained substances are uniformly distributed.

Additionally, the three deaths in Melbourne where purported ecstasy pills contained 4-FA and 25C-NBOMe require equipment so sophisticated that police sent samples to Spain for verification. Also, pill testing won’t reduce drug use and its risks as is claimed.

A festival-goer with a tested ‘dangerous’ pill will simply ask friends next time where the ‘safe’ MDMA ones are purchased.

Why aren’t the pill testing promoters telling the truth about ecstasy, saying pill testing is about safety when it’s not? Maybe there’s something to hide, like another agenda.

Of course, only they know their own motives.

Gary Christian is a specialist researcher in AOD and Community Health for Drug Free Australia.
READ MORE: https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/pill-testing-arguments-for-and-against/
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