EDITORIAL: Act now before more lives are lost to drugs

It is unfortunate drug use and, sadly, the consequences of that use/misuse, is almost becoming the “norm” in today’s society.

Unless it is happening to you or someone you love, there are many who see the prevalence of drugs highlighted in the media when talking about associated deaths or drug-related violence, as nothing more than just another news headline.

The time has come for Victorians to take a stand to prevent serious harm and death from illegal drugs and that’s exactly what Buninyong MP Geoff Howard is doing about pill-testing at events like music festivals.

Many will see Mr Howard’s stance as a double-standard, almost condoning the use of drugs. 

But the chairman of state inquiry into drug law reform, who attended the weekend’s Rainbow Serpent Festival at Lexton to witness first hand how bad the problem may be, is actually looking at saving lives.

Mr Howard believes pill-testing at events like Rainbow will help prevent hospitalisation or even deaths of people who really don’t know what substances they are putting in their mouths.

An example of how dangerous these manufactured illegal drugs are came at the weekend, when nine people were taken to hospital, some of them in a critical condition, after being treated for suspected drug overdoses at the I Am Hardstyle event in Melbourne. 

Mr Howard said he would welcome pill-testing on a trial basis, at the very least.

Buninyong MP Geoff Howard at the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Lexton at the weekend.

Buninyong MP Geoff Howard at the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Lexton at the weekend.

While he said pill-testing was overdue, he understood how it could be perceived as sending a double-message “that you can’t take drugs into a festival in first place, but we will provide a service to check them”.

“We need to keep having this discussion and people who have a viewpoint need to share them with the government and eventually change will happen,” said Mr Howard.

However, it seems his view is not being shared Premier Daniel Andrews, who said he would not reconsider his opposition to recreational drug testing despite the mass overdose at the Festival Hall rave in Melbourne.

"There is no safe levels at which these substances can be taken and there was proof positive of that yesterday," Mr Andrews said. 

"We are not having pill testing in this state, not under a government I lead anyway."

But whether it’s under the Andrews Government or not, a stance needs to be taken to save lives.