Some Pharmacies in NSW and NT Offer Over-the-counter Pill Testing Kits
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Some Pharmacies in NSW and NT Offer Over-the-counter Pill Testing Kits

A pharmacy chain began selling over-the-counter pill testing kits after several festival-goers in NSW died or became ill from taking party drugs like ecstasy and ketamine.

The kits were previously only available online or at tobacconists who sold other drug-related paraphernalia.

These stores can be found in Western Sydney, Darwin, and Vincentia. Vincentia is a small community at the Jervis Bay edge.

The general manager at Choice Pharmacy, Hasan Moutasallem, stated that the goal of selling the kits is to take the pills safer for those who will use them anyway.

He said, “In terms of the pill test, it’s just an added safety thing.”

“If someone is going to take the drug, there is a service that can test it.

“So, we don’t condone the use of drugs or any other illegal substances. We say there is a way to test it.”

Moutasallem explained that the kits work by mixing a drug sample and a solution that changes in color.

“Depending on which kit you have, it will give you a color. If it’s the right color for what you’re testing, then you can be sure that it’s what’s in the pill. He said that if it isn’t, you’ll know it’s the right color but not what it should be.

“It’s a guideline.

AMA warns against overreacting

Kean Seng Lim, the Australian Medical Association president, urged caution when testing pills with these kits.

Dr. Lim stated that it might be beneficial to have appropriately trained pharmacists evaluate in the context of the patient’s case.

“But a package that is sold over-the-counter, if sold without adequate advice, can be quite misleading.”

Despite ongoing lobbying, the NSW Government is still opposed to pill testing.

A spokesperson for NSW Health stated that “the NSW Government does not support Pill Testing.”

“Pill testing” or “drug checking” may test for specific compounds in a capsule or pill.

It does not mean that the capsule or pill is safe to be taken.

Uncertain about the legality of testing kits

A University of Wollongong law lecturer, Ben Mostyn, said selling over-the-counter pill testing kits appeared legal. However, it was illegal under the Drugs Use and Traffic Act to possess equipment for administering or using an illegal drug.

He said that if the meaning of “that” was broadened and understood as equipment for administering or using the drug, then possession could be considered illegal.

These pill testing kits may be more popular if there aren’t more legal trials at music festivals. (Jessica Clifford: ABC Illawarra News)

“But that’s likely a broad interpretation, so most people believe it’s legal.”

However, Mr. Mostyn stated that police could view the independent use of a pill-testing kit at a music festival differently.

He said that there might be grounds for suspicion at a music festival if someone was buying or grabbing one of the kits. This would allow police to search them and could lead to arrests.

In April 2018, Australia’s first pill testing initiative at Canberra’s Groovin the Moo produced positive education and minimization results. However, there are no indications that pill testing at festivals is imminent outside the ACT.

Festival-goers may be more inclined to find their solutions.