Harm reduction entails policies, programs and practices aimed at reducing the harms associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people who are unwilling or unable to stop. The focus is on the prevention of harm, rather than on the prevention of drug use itself. Harm reduction has been a principle of Australia’s approach to drug use for several decades. However, recent overdose deaths and hospitalisations at music festivals have highlighted the clear harms of illicit drug use and prompted a debate over the introduction of pill testing, with political leaders being reluctant to implement the measure.
This book explores the ethical, legal and medical pros and cons in the debate, with a topical focus on pill testing. Does pill testing give young people a false sense of security and promote further risky drug use, when there is really no safe level at which these substances can be taken? Or are harm reduction approaches such as pill testing and needle and syringe programs simply about saving lives and giving people a safety net? In a perfect world, no one would risk their lives by taking party drugs – but in reality, is harm reduction too bitter a pill to swallow?