Legislative Council electronic petition:
The petition of certain citizens of the state of Victoria draws to the attention of the Legislative Council that urgent action is required to address an illicit drug market that is increasingly complex and hazardous.
Experts throughout Australia have warned that more deaths are expected if urgent action is not undertaken to implement dynamic and progressive drug strategies, such as drug checking, otherwise known as pill testing.
Australians are among the highest consumers in the world of illicit drugs such as MDMA (often referred to as ‘ecstasy’) and, in recent years, the international drug market has become significantly more complex and dangerous, and has fundamentally surpassed the capacity of traditional supply reduction (policing) strategies. Adulterants and new psychoactive substances have contributed to an increase in the number of medical emergencies and drug overdose deaths in recent years.
Drug checking is a collaborative inter-agency emergency health service. Technical experts operate technology such as gas chromatography — mass spectrometry (GC-MS) or Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) to provide a detailed analysis of substances. Healthcare professionals working alongside community and social service workers, including harm reduction peer educators can provide better informed health promotion, brief interventions and service referrals. The additional source of data can help paint a clearer picture of the illicit drug market to inform policy development.
Different international examples of drug checking systems that Victoria could tailor to our own setting include: The Netherlands has the drug information and monitoring system (‘DIMS’), administered through the Trimbos Institute; in the UK, ‘The Loop’ administers multi-agency safety testing; and the nightlife empowerment and wellbeing implementation project (NEWIP), is a collaboration of EU drug checking services that have developed good practice standards.
Drug checking programs have been proven to help reduce both the circulation of dangerous drugs and discourage risky behaviour. They also facilitate increased engagement between recreational drug users and health professionals, providing information and advice that can decrease the risk of overdose and other harm, and referrals for anyone experiencing problems with their drug use. Recent trials in New Zealand and a growing body of scientific evidence from overseas shows that consumers are discerning and choose to discard substances that are impure or misrepresented.
The petitioners therefore request that the Legislative Council call on the state government to work to immediately establish a trial of lab quality drug checking services in Victoria.
For the sake of health and safety it is imperative that the state government act to implement a mixed-model of drug checking services at:
(1) fixed sites, such as primary health networks (PHN), primary and secondary needle and syringe programs (NSP) and other subscribing health services; and
(2) mobile or temporary sites such as entertainment precincts and festivals.
A trial could be initiated immediately with police permission using their current discretionary powers. The availability of technology and experts to run a trial are already in existence and would only require the appropriate permissions.
By Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (364 signatures).
Laid on table.