Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Dilip Dhupelia
Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Dilip Dhupelia

Doctors in pill push after festival deaths

QUEENSLAND doctors are calling for an urgent controlled pill-testing trial, after the worst season for drug-related deaths at music festivals.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Dilip Dhupelia said immediate action was required, after six young people died from drugs taken during music festivals this summer.

But Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said it was important to wait for the results of the ACT's second trial at this year's Groovin' the Moo festival in Canberra.

"This will provide a larger sample size, which will give us a better understanding," Mr Miles said.

Queensland’s Josh Tam
Queensland’s Josh Tam

Queensland's Joshua Tam, 22, died after he consumed a suspected party drug at the Lost Paradise festival north of Sydney last December.

The Minister backs Dr Dhupelia's statement that any death or serious harm caused by taking a pill at a music ­festival or other event is too many.

"We need to have a look at a raft of solutions in terms of dealing with these issues and a pill-testing trial should be ­considered as part of a wider harm minimisation strategy for festivals," Dr Dhupelia said.

"AMAQ supports a controlled, holistic approach to minimising harm and stopping deaths among young and unsuspecting drug users."

The state's top doctor said that the approach could include robust, medically supervised pill-testing trials where the latest lab-testing technology was used and the results were compared with international evidence.

"Any trial would also need the support and involvement of the regulatory and clinical authorities and the testing kits would need the consensus support of chemical pathologists," Dr Dhupelia said.

AMAQ councillor and ­addiction medicine specialist Dr Jim Finn said that the best way to ensure that a pill-testing regimen provided ­accurate results was to invest in research.

He said sophisticated technology needed to be used, rather than more basic tests.

"While pill testing can provide important information about which drugs are in a pill, it cannot tell an individual how a drug will affect them," Dr Finn said.

"This may vary based on individual differences, gender, age, weight, other substances consumed and the dose taken," he said.

Dr Dilip Dhupelia, Australian Medical Association Queensland president
Dr Dilip Dhupelia, Australian Medical Association Queensland president

"Pill testing cannot declare a pill absolutely safe and the safest option remains not to take illicit drugs," Dr Finn said.

AMAQ believes that any pill-testing trial would need to be held in conjunction with a wider strategy aimed at reducing supply and demand, minimising harm and educating drug users on the risks of ­taking illicit substances.