.

  • Written by Nicole Lee, Professor at the National Drug Research Institute (Melbourne), Curtin University
If NSW takes on the coroner's recommendations, it will be among the most innovative and evidence-based states in Australia on drug policy. from www.shutterstock.com

The much-awaited NSW coroner’s report into music festival deaths was released today.

In the report, Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame recommends pill testing, a ban on sniffer dogs and a reduction in the number of strip searches, among other measures to prevent deaths.

These evidence-based strategies for harm reduction are to be applauded. But it remains to be seen if the NSW government will change its stance on drug use and harm reduction to implement the coroner’s recommendations.


Read more: How does MDMA kill?


The inquest examined the deaths of six young people who died during or just after attending music festivals in NSW between December 2017 and January 2019.

All died as a result of taking MDMA or ecstasy. Five of the six also had other drugs in their system.

In the report, Grahame said:

It can be hard for the community to grapple with some of the underlying issues when drug use is illegal and drug users are stigmatised. It is difficult to properly explain the potential risks to young people if our only permissible message is “just say no”. While we continue to hide the true extent of drug use, it remains inherently more dangerous.

However, Grahame noted the NSW government had already put in place, since these deaths, a range of measures including more formalised emergency medical responses at festivals and clinical guidelines on how to manage drug incidents before the person reaches hospital.

She also noted festival organisers had implemented strategies that improved safety since these deaths.

What did the coroner recommend?

Drug checking

The coroner recommended the government introduce drug checking, which includes a range of approaches designed to test the content of illicit drugs and alert people to dangerous substances. She said the evidence for it was “compelling”.


Read more: Testing festival goers' pills isn't the only way to reduce overdoses. Here's what else works


These approaches include mobile facilities at festivals to test drugs brought by festival goers with direct feedback to them, sometimes referred to as “pill testing”.

Grahame recommended a mobile unit at festivals and other events to test drugs acquired by police.

She also recommended a fixed site facility. This is a permanent site, outside the festival, where people could bring drugs to be tested and receive harm-reduction advice.

These recommendations are a significant step forward and would place NSW in line with international best practice.

No more sniffer dogs and fewer strip searches

Grahame recommended stopping the use of drug sniffer dogs at festivals because of the harm it causes.

This includes festival goers taking drugs before the festival (pre-loading), taking double the dose, or panicking and taking drugs quickly to avoid detection.


Read more: It's time to change our drug dog policies to catch dealers, not low-level users at public events


She also recommended strip searches should be used only in extreme circumstance.

She said:

Risky ingestion and secretion, trauma especially when coupled with strip search and the destruction of trust between young people and police are all serious concerns.

She said the NSW police commissioner should issue operational guidelines to direct how police should exercise their discretion with illicit drug use and possession at festivals. She encouraged police to engage more positively and not to take punitive approaches with festival goers.


Read more: Unlawful strip searches are on the rise in NSW and police aren’t being held accountable


Other recommendations included:

  • the NSW government facilitate a meeting with a range of stakeholders, including the health department, festival health services, festival promoters and other experts, to ensure mandatory minimum standards for policing, medical services and harm reduction at music festivals

  • the redefining of drug use as a health rather than law-enforcement issue

  • a drug summit to develop evidence-based drug policy. She recommended the summit include consideration of guidelines for drug-checking services, drug education, decriminalisation of personal use drugs and regulation of some currently illicit drugs.

These recommendations are key because it’s important stakeholders work together with the best interest of young people at heart. Our best approach, as the coroner has indicated, is to keep young people as safe as possible in the short period in which they experiment with illicit drugs.

She also recommended improved drug education for young people and their parents.

What happens next?

Policy on alcohol and other drugs is largely the responsibility of the states and territories. So, it will be up to the NSW government to implement most of these recommendations.

However, the government has already shown strong opposition to what we know works to reduce harms (like drug checking) and escalated what we know increases harms (like drug dogs and strip searches). We need to wait and see whether it can find a way to re-adjust its position on drug use and harm reduction and follow the coroner’s recommendations.

If this happens, NSW will be among the most innovative and evidence-based states in Australia on drug policy, and among leaders globally.

Nicole Lee works as a paid consultant in the alcohol and other drug sector. She has previously been awarded grants by state and federal governments, NHMRC and other public funding bodies for alcohol and other drug research.

Authors: Nicole Lee, Professor at the National Drug Research Institute (Melbourne), Curtin University

Read more http://theconversation.com/when-the-coroner-looked-at-how-to-cut-drug-deaths-at-music-festivals-the-evidence-won-but-what-happens-next-126669

14 Surprisingly Easy Housekeeping Hacks That Will Impress Your Guests

Everyone wants to present a perfect house when guests come over. The problem is, no one also wants to spend the whole day scrubbing everything super clean. If you follow these smart hacks to prepare...

Giancarlo Stangherlin - avatar Giancarlo Stangherlin

Award winning, ASX-list data SIM card company promises BIG changes for travellers

FLEXIROAM’s attachable SIM card, FLEXIROAM X Microchip is shaking up the telecommunications industry, fundamentally changing the way travellers use data overseas.   According to Founder and CEO...

Tess Sanders Lazarus - avatar Tess Sanders Lazarus

Friday essay: living with fire and facing our fears

The smouldering ruins of a child's bike lies amongst a property lost to bushfires in the Mid North Coast region of NSW last month. Darren Pateman/AAPIt is only mid-November but we have to walk early t...

Danielle Clode, Senior Research Fellow in Creative Writing, Flinders University - avatar Danielle Clode, Senior Research Fellow in Creative Writing, Flinders University

Explainer: why homicide rates in Australia are declining

Latest figures reveal homocides in Australia are at historic lows. AAP/James RossAccording to the latest figures, homicides in Australia are at historic lows and compare well against international tr...

Terry Goldsworthy, Associate Professor in Criminology, Bond University - avatar Terry Goldsworthy, Associate Professor in Criminology, Bond University

Making space: how designing hospitals for Indigenous people might benefit everyone

Sunshine Coast University Hospital uses evidence-based design to provide outside spaces with views that Indigenous people tell us they value. Architectus, Author providedWelcome to the next article in...

Timothy O'Rourke, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, The University of Queensland - avatar Timothy O'Rourke, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, The University of Queensland

Vital Signs: Australia's slipping student scores will lead to greater income inequality

While no test is perfect but the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings are pretty useful for understanding the skills young people are being equipped with. www.shutterstock.comThe la...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

We're using lasers and toaster-sized satellites to beam information faster through space

The electromagnetic spectrum we can access with current technologies is completely occupied. This means experts have to think of creative ways to meet our rocketing demands for data. NASA Johnson/Flic...

Gottfried Lechner, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Telecommunications Research, University of South Australia, University of South Australia - avatar Gottfried Lechner, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Telecommunications Research, University of South Australia, University of South Australia

Grattan on Friday: Angus Taylor's troubles go international, in brawl with Naomi Wolf

Morrison would rather live with a problem minister in a key post than give a scalp to Labor. Mick Tsikas/AAPScott Morrison said it with a straight face, and repetition for emphasis. “I’m v...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Early medical abortion is legal across Australia but rural women often don't have access to it

Australian women can have an early medical termination – which involves taking two oral medications – up to the ninth week of pregnancy. Jonatán Becerra/UnsplashAround one in s...

Jane Tomnay, Assoc. Professor / Director of Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, University of Melbourne - avatar Jane Tomnay, Assoc. Professor / Director of Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, University of Melbourne

All hail apostrophes - the heavy lifters who 'point a sentence in the right direction'

Doing away with the apostrophe is not just the beginning of the end ... it's the end. www.shutterstock.comReports this week about the demise of the Apostrophe Protection Society may have been greatly...

Roslyn Petelin, Course coordinator, The University of Queensland - avatar Roslyn Petelin, Course coordinator, The University of Queensland

It's the 10-year anniversary of our climate policy abyss. But don't blame the Greens

In 2009, a Bob Brown-led Greens party voted against an emissions trading scheme – but they can't be blamed for what came after. Mick Tsikas/AAPFederal Labor this week commemorated a dubious anni...

Rebecca Pearse, Lecturer, Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney - avatar Rebecca Pearse, Lecturer, Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney

Morrison cuts a swathe through the public service, with five departmental heads gone

Scott Morrison has announced a dramatic overhaul of the federal public service, cutting the number of departments and creating several new mega ones, while removing five secretaries. The departments...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Tick, tock... how stress speeds up your chromosomes' ageing clock

At a molecular level, stresses and strains can make your body clock break into a sprint. Lightspring/ShutterstockAgeing is an inevitability for all living organisms, and although we still don’t ...

Szymek Drobniak, DECRA Fellow, UNSW - avatar Szymek Drobniak, DECRA Fellow, UNSW

The government wants to privatise visa processing. Who will be held accountable when something goes wrong?

The Department of Home Affairs has begun taking steps to outsource its visa processing to private service providers. This move has sparked an important national debate on transparency, accountability ...

Marina Khan, PhD Candidate, Western Sydney University - avatar Marina Khan, PhD Candidate, Western Sydney University

Left-leaning Australians may look to New Zealand with envy, but Ardern still has much work to do

Jacinda Ardern created an indefinable aura of promise – but just as people fall in love, some have fallen out of love, too. AAP/Mick TsikasIn October 2017, 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern became prim...

Grant Duncan, Associate Professor for the School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University - avatar Grant Duncan, Associate Professor for the School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University

Scientists fear insect populations are shrinking. Here are six ways to help

Scientists need your help to protect Australia's insects and track their numbers. Joe Castro/AAPAre you planning a big garden clean-up this summer, or stocking up on fly spray to keep bugs at bay? Bef...

David Yeates, Director of the Australian National Insect Collection, CSIRO - avatar David Yeates, Director of the Australian National Insect Collection, CSIRO

Aquariums, meerkats and gaming screens: how hospital design supports children, young people and their families

This aquarium at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne helps reframe hospitals as exciting hubs of activity with things to do and friends to meet. Shannon McGrath/Advanced Aquarium TechnologiessW...

Stephanie Kathleen Liddicoat, Lecturer, Architectural Design, Swinburne University of Technology - avatar Stephanie Kathleen Liddicoat, Lecturer, Architectural Design, Swinburne University of Technology

To stop a tech apocalypse we need ethics and the arts

If recent television shows are anything to go by, we’re a little concerned about the consequences of technological development. Dystopian narratives abound. Black Mirror projects the negative ...

Sara James, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, La Trobe University - avatar Sara James, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, La Trobe University

To restore public confidence in apartments, rewrite Australia's building codes

Compliance with the National Construction Code provides no guarantee that an apartment won't leak. ShutterstockA prestige apartment building in Sydney built by a well-known developer is undergoing a ...

Geoff Hanmer, Adjunct Lecturer in Architecture, UNSW - avatar Geoff Hanmer, Adjunct Lecturer in Architecture, UNSW

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Ways Love and Relationships Benefit Body and Mind

Being in a happy relationship is great. You always have someone to greet you when you come home ...

The Importance of Smiling: How You Can Smile More

Happiness is something we all strive for and is often just out of reach. Of course, it’s impos...

5 Things to Do On Your Wedding Morning

After months of meticulous planning, wedding mornings usually find the bride excited but stressed ...

How to Make Your Girlfriend’s Birthday Extra Special

Your girlfriend’s birthday is your opportunity to show her how much you care. But how exactly do...