Festivals fuel Vic pill testing appeal

Reason Party leader Fiona Patten wants a trial of pill testing at Victorian music festivals.
Reason Party leader Fiona Patten wants a trial of pill testing at Victorian music festivals.

Michael Barlow thought he was playing it safe when he only took a quarter of a pill that was sold to him as the sedative Xanax.

But as his heart rate increased, and he began feeling delirious and nauseous, he realised the drug wasn't what he had been promised.

The then 27-year-old needed to be sedated and spent the next 48 hours in hospital.

He will never know what was in the pill, although it was suspected to be a potent psychedelic.

"If I had known what I was taking, there is no way I would have taken that," he told reporters in Melbourne on Monday.

Mr Barlow, now 30, is lucky to have survived the experience.

But a maverick Victorian politician is worried some young people with similar experiences might not survive, if Premier Daniel Andrews doesn't back a pill-testing trial.

Victorian upper house MP Fiona Patten has issued an appeal for pill testing on the cusp of the music festival season, with the Listen Out event running in St Kilda this weekend.

"We are crying out and calling on the government to prevent any lives from being lost," the Reason Party leader told reporters on Monday.

Both the Victorian Labor government and opposition have relied on advice from Victoria Police that pill testing would send the wrong message, by giving people a false sense of security about illicit drugs.

Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said that hasn't changed.

"We have no plans to allow for pill testing at events in Victoria," he told AAP on Monday.

Instead the state government is focusing its attention on drug and alcohol services, spending $273.1 million in 2019/20.

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien hasn't budged on pill-testing either, believing it would encourage more people to take drugs.

"These drugs are illegal for a reason. They're illegal because they're a serious hazard to people's health," he told reporters.

Ms Patten said that rationale isn't credible, with pill testing trials in the ACT showing almost a third of young people who tested their drugs didn't end up taking them.

"They have given us no viable or valid reason for not supporting this trial," Ms Patten said of the government.

"When people have a greater understanding of the substances that they might take, they change their behaviour."

The Greens have also previously shown support for a pill testing trial.

The Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians are among groups who have urged the government to back the idea.

Australian Associated Press