Pill Testing

Pill testing is a harm reduction service (also known as drug checking) that analyses the contents of drugs to help you avoid the unknown and potentially dangerous substances in illicit drugs. Appropriate information and counselling is provided to service users based on their specific test result to encourage choices that reduce overall drug use and the harms associated with taking drugs.

Pill testing facilities have been effectively used internationally since the 1990’s and are currently available in 20 countries within Europe and the Americas, as well as New Zealand.

The second Australian trial of a pill testing service was conducted at the Canberra Groovin the Moo festival in April 2019 as one element of a broader harm reduction approach. This followed the first pill testing trial at the same festival last year. This second trial has been independently evaluated by a team at the Australian National University - research that is a first of its kind in Australia. See the final evaluation report for further information.

The ACT Government is committed to preventing and reducing the harms associated with drug use. ACT Health has developed The Festivals Pill Testing Policy, which provides guidance to event planners regarding harm minimisation at large events such as music festivals.

What is harm reduction?

Harm reduction includes measures that aim to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use for the user, their families and the wider community. You can find more information about harm reduction in the National Drug Strategy 2017-2026.

Why should I get my pills tested?

The composition of illicit drugs is varied and highly unpredictable. Makers of illicit drugs often cut pills with other substances or include more dangerous drugs entirely.

Through conversations with experts on the results of chemical analysis of your pill, pill testing better manages your risks and helps you make an informed decision about whether you still want to take the drug.

How are pills tested?

Before your pill is tested, you are asked to take a pre-test self-assessment to identify the substances you believe are in your pill.

You provide a small sample of your pill to put through the test equipment. Once the test is complete, the service staff provide you with information about the results and discuss the risks you would face if you consumed the found substances.

Does pill testing make illicit drugs safe?

No pill testing services operate on a harm reduction basis only. Illicit drugs, including MDMA, are inherently unsafe and testing can’t certify that you won’t suffer an adverse reaction by taking them.

Does pill testing promote or condone drug use?

No - evidence suggests that people don’t end up consuming more illicit substances as a result of a pill testing service. Pill testing services are a unique opportunity to effectively encourage people who use illicit drugs to modify their behaviours in ways that reduce risks of harm to their health, at the most relevant time for an intervention.

Page last updated on: 4 Sep 2020