26 September 2023

Drug tests’ first month shows high hopes

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Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have released results from Australia’s first Government-backed pill-testing service, including the discovery that one dose of methamphetamine was actually just sugar.

The Territory’s pill testing service, CanTEST Health and Drug Checking service, began in July as a six-month trial and is a collaboration between ACT Health, Directions Health Services, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camha), and Pill Testing Australia with testing and independent evaluations provided by ANU.

Associate Professor at ANU’s Research School of Chemistry, Malcolm McLeod said results from the service’s first month of operation provided important insight into the types of substances being sold in the local market.

He said the results suggested the service was reaching a far broader cross section of the drug taking community than what was possible from Australia’s first festival-based pill testing services conducted in previous years.

Associate Professor McLeod, who is also the Chemistry Lead for CanTEST and Pill Testing Australia, said a total of 58 samples were tested, with 18 people discarding their drugs once they received the results, and 70 health interventions made.

“One methamphetamine sample was found to be sugar,” Associate Professor McLeod said.

“The researchers also found cocaine deposited with the testing service had purity levels of 27 per cent and 40 per cent of samples had no cocaine at all,” he said.

Associate Professor at ANU’s Medical School, David Caldicott said people who attended CanTEST reported feeling safe and respected, “as well as receiving good and clear information”.

“Through the CanTEST service we are engaging with a new generation of young consumers, many of whom have never sought advice on their drug consumption before now,” Professor Caldicott said.

“For some, those decisions involve choosing not to consume the drugs that that they have volunteered to have tested,” he said.

“For others, they may choose to use their drugs in a way that makes them less likely to be harmed.”

Professor Caldicott, who helps oversee and run the testing service, said that for everyone who used CanTEST, the service acted as the catalyst for a conversation that “all of them deserve”.

“The idea that Australia will ever be ‘drug-free’ is magical thinking from a bygone era; an era that has singularly failed in the goals which it espoused,” he said.

Further information on the CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service can be accessed at this PS News link.

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