LIFE SAVING TESTS: Two doctors say they will defy the government and test pills at festivals.
LIFE SAVING TESTS: Two doctors say they will defy the government and test pills at festivals. youtube

Price of alcohol to blame for drug overdoses: Festival boss

THE price of alcohol is part to blame in the spike of drug overdoses and deaths in youth, according to the founder of one of the state's most popular music festivals.

Woodford Folk Festival's Bill Hauritz said he would welcome pill testing should the Australian Government decide to support it.

His festival attracts 10,000 punters annually is yet to have a major drug incident. But Mr Hauritz conceded drug use did occur.

"If study and research shows it's the best way forward then we will happily accommodate it (pill testing)," Mr Hauritz said.

"If it saves one life, then of course it's worthwhile."

Mr Hauritz did not claim to be an expert on pill testing, but he believe the price of alcohol was partly to blame for people turning to more sinister options.

"It used to be that young people aspired to drink lots of grog, now they can't afford it," Mr Haurtiz said.

"Alcohol is taxed like the prohibition.

Woodford Folk Festival director Bill Hauritz. Supplied by Woodford Folk Festival.
Woodford Folk Festival director Bill Hauritz. Supplied by Woodford Folk Festival.

"Back in the day when people would drink too much, it was at a licensed premises, under supervision.

"But for what you can buy for $50 of alcohol compared to drugs, is vastly different.

"Cheap, illegal, dangerous drugs are so easily available. It's scary."

Not all are totally convinced pill testing is the answer.

The Health Retreat director Francis Mclaughlan said the benefits would be limited. The drug and alcohol rehabilitation specialists believe a ramped-up cultural change is required to begin to fix the issue.

"Drugs have been around at music festivals forever, going back to the Elvis Presley and Woodstock years," Mr Mclaughlan said.

"I really think pill testing will be limited. But as a society, the culture and education needs to change.

"People want to be cool and be accepted by their peers. But you can experience every bit of the beauty of music without drugs.

"Don't go off the goodwill of others and never put anything in your mouth if you don't know what it is. It's insanity."

Do you think the tax on alcohol is too high?

This poll ended on 25 May 2019.

Current Results

Yes, it encourages people to try other substances.

73%

No, it could even be taxed more.

26%

I'm not sure.

0%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Prominent Sunshine Coast lawyer Travis Schultz pointed to the success of pill testing in Europe. But he questioned who was legally responsible for harm or death if patrons used drugs that had undergone testing.

"While on-site testing is fast and easy, depending on the equipment used the process may be limited in the type of substances it can detect," Mr Schultz said. "Therefore, it is possible a lethal substance could slip through the cracks."

"What if a test picks up MDMA at low levels but doesn't reveal the presence of other potentially lethal compounds?"

"Under common law principles there is generally no duty of care owed by a festival organiser to protect patrons from harming themselves through drug use.

"But at what point should regulation replace common sense and our duty to take reasonable care for our own safety?"