Giving a Damn

(and getting a clue)

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Royal Australasian College of Physicians

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine

Rural Doctors Association of Australia

Australian Medical Association

Australian Nursing Midwifery Association

National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia

Forensic and Clinical Toxicology Association

Public Health Association of Australia


Dear Board Chair/President,

I am writing as the Secretary for Drug Free Australia.

Drug Free Australia notes that your organisation has put its name behind Harm Reduction Australia’s and its auspiced entity Pill Testing Australia’s campaign for pill testing at festivals and clubs.

We are writing to your Board or management committee because we have spent considerable time examining the existing science behind party pill deaths in Australia and believe there is nothing in the science that lends support to pill testing.   To that end we wish to ask questions of your Board or Management Committee regarding your support for pill testing.

  1. According to a recent study of 392 MDMA-related deaths in Australia between 2001 and 2016 ecstasy was a direct/antecedent cause or a significant contributing condition in all 392 deaths. We note the study did not nominate any deaths from impurities or contaminants, nor were any synthetic drugs which can be cut with MDMA such as PMA or NBOMe listed as causal.*   Yet Pill Testing Australia, which your organisation explicitly supports, red-flags substances like N-ethylpentylone (which has caused zero deaths in Australia) with a red card which denotes “the presence of a substance known to be associated with increased harm / multiple overdoses / death” and yet irresponsibly gives a white-card “all clear” to the substance that has been causal in 392 deaths in 16 years. 

    Q. Will your organisation continue to give explicit support to this pill testing practice of giving a white card to ecstasy when it is the only psychoactive substance found?   If so, why?

  2. Pill testing Australia claims that in light of the dangers of ecstasy, which they acknowledge but still refuse to red-flag, their trained counselors and medical staff will highlight the dangers of ecstasy use, and attempt to talk the user out of ingesting the substance.   Yet at the April 2019 Canberra pill testing trial not one ecstasy user was recorded as having discarded their pill before leaving.

    Q. Does your organisation, in light of the 392 deaths in 16 years in Australia, consider pill testing’s failure to keep ecstasy out of the mouths of users after the horse has bolted via their investment in these pills, to be a successful harm reduction intervention?

  3. The police successfully deter a large potential percentage of party drugs from being ingested at music festivals just as mobile police radar vehicles deter a lot of speeding.   Compared to pill testing, police are far clearly more successful at keeping many users from bringing illicit drugs to a festival and then ingesting them.   This is a proven method for keeping pills out of users’ mouths.

    Q. Does your organisation disagree that policing is a more effective harm prevention than pill testing’s attempts at deterrence once a user’s pill has been analysed?   If not, why not?

  4. Pill Testing Australia is now looking to government to fund the considerably more expensive DART-MS technology which can detect purity and dose of substances in a pill, which their existing FTIR equipment cannot.   They believe that they can thereby better counsel their patrons on how to avoid overdoses.

    Q.1 Does your organisation differ with the most prominent harm reduction organisation in the world that ecstasy overdose is rare?   If so, why?

    Q.2 Given the graph below of the dose and subsequent peak MDMA blood concentrations of 49 ecstasy users studied in South Australia, (with the blue shaded rectangle denoting the blood concentrations of the lower 50% of Australia’s 392 MDMA-related deaths), do you agree that pill testing medical staff or counselors could reliably give better and more widespread information on individual safer dosing than can animated signage on main stage screens at festivals?

Drug Free Australia has shared the contents of this letter with more than 900 State, Territory and Federal Parliamentarians across Australia and we believe that they will be keen to hear your organisation’s answers to these questions.   We believe it would not be unreasonable for Australians to think that if nothing is heard within a three month period that your organisation has been unable to answer these questions.

If you wish to raise any issues with Drug Free Australia concerning this letter, please e-mail me at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or ring on 0422 163 141.

Yours faithfully

Gary Christians, SECRETARY
Drug Free Australia

*We note that there were only two possible deaths from ecstasy cut with another drug during this period, one in 2007 involving PMA and another on the Gold Coast in 2016 involving NBOMe.   It appears media were guessing at the drugs causing death in both cases.


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Health Care Professionals and Families Must Focus on Youth Substance Use Prevention

The peer-reviewed journal JAMA Network Open asked Robert L. DuPont, MD and Caroline DuPont, MD, President and Vice President, respectively, of IBH, to respond to a new research study by Bertha K. Madras, et al., "Associations of parental marijuana use with offspring marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol use and opioid misuse."In their commentary, Drs. DuPont note that this study showed that when parents used marijuana, their children had increased risk of using marijuana too. "This underscores the need for engagement by both parents and health care professionals in youth substance use prevention and parental substance use disorder treatment." Drs. DuPont then connect the findings to IBH's own youth prevention work:The association of parent use of marijuana with offspring use of marijuana and tobacco complements a recent finding suggesting that there is a common liability for substance use among adolescents. Among young people aged 12 to 17 years, the use of one substance is positively associated with the use of others, and non-use of any one substance is positively associated with non-use of others. There is also evidence that there is a large and steadily increasing number of American youth who do not use any substances, including alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana. More than half (52%) of high school seniors have not used any substance in the past month and more than one-quarter (26%) have not used any substance in their lifetime, up from lows in 1982 of 16% and 3%, respectively. Together, these facts can empower parents when they are educated about their own substance use choices affecting the risks of their children using substances. They can also inform health care professionals that no use of alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, or other drugs is not only the health standard for youth but that non-use by young patients is common and achievable. This commentary extends the work of IBH to set a new health standard for youth prevention of One Choice: no use of any alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or other drugs by youth under age 21. Drs. DuPont and the IBH team thank Madras, et al. for their important contribution in JAMA Network Open and thank the journal for the opportunity to share their insights on its implications for prevention and treatment.

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Is, simply, good. Very good, in fact. It is a deep-dive through the superficial fun of a party drug that 1 million Britons take into the brutality beneath. It manages to be compelling, honest and unpreachy, and treats its subject with robust respect. They visit the slums and the tenants they control, meet the children who have an 80% chance of being recruited into the industry, and go out on patrol with the navy to understand the virtual impossibility of breaking the stranglehold of the cartels…PARTY ON!  

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“Legalizing cannabis will reduce crime and raise Tax revenue – All savings will come from reduced policing, lower crime rate, less supply reduction costs, and increased tax-revenue from licensing!”

So pealed the  promises to the unwitting population from the addiction for profit advocates! Well, as the following (and little broadcasted) data reveals, the cannabis chaos continues to unfold in California (and other states). It does not augur well the future of this always clearly ‘bad idea’!  Outside of the emerging ‘medicinal cannabis’ market, Australia currently has one market for marijuana – the illegal market (Black Market). We most definitely do not need this three market ‘circus’ – Legal, Black and Grey Market and the ballooning costs both fiscally and health wise, these will bring.

‘In regards to illegal Cannabis grows, they are getting worse, not better. One of the things I promoted over two years ago, when I got involved with the issue of cannabis policy, was to address the issue as we move from the illegal to a legal market, that we have to hold accountable those that are not participating in the legal market. Particularly those that are continuing to profit of illegal grows now are manifesting they’re getting bigger and becoming more stubborn, more acute. They are not just issues for environment, of an environmental concern, but increasingly of fire safety itself. So, there is a direct correlation again between our fire preparedness and our fire safety, in addition to addressing – mitigating ah [sic], the Cartel activity that persists up north…” (February 11th 2019 Press Conference)

“Stepped-up enforcement comes with a certain measure of irony — legalization was meant to open a new chapter for the state, free from the legacy of heavy policing and incarceration for minor infractions. Instead, there are new calls for a crackdown on illegal selling…But no other state has an illegal market on the scale of California’s, and those illicit sales are cannibalizing the revenue of licensed businesses and in some cases, experts say, forcing them out of business.

‘Getting Worse, Not Better’: Illegal Pot Market Booming in California Despite Legalization (NY Times 27/4/2019)

California Department of Finance – Office of State Audits & Evaluations.

  • Even with a thriving illegal market in California, only 15 enforcement unit staff positions have been filled, though 68 were authorized. "The bureau's ability to process complaints, perform inspections and investigations and review ... testing laboratories is severely impacted," auditors wrote.
  • The three agencies that regulate marijuana need to do a better job communicating. "Enforcement unit staff stated a central contact from the other licensing authorities has not been established," the report found.
  • There's a cash shortage. The primary source of revenue for the agency is from application and license fees. About $200 million was expected to come in through June 30, 2019, but the bureau has collected only $2 million as of January 2019.

California Cannabis Regulators Struggle With Job, Audit Shows

During fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18, cannabis program expenditures totalled $6,774,577 and $14,876,055, with revenue received of $0 and $1,092,250, respectively. Due to the program’s infancy and initial establishment of its structural foundation, the Bureau has incurred expenditures higher than revenue.

Bureau of Cannabis Control – California Department of Consumer Affairs Performance Audit

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