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Mother calls for Australia to follow ACT’s lead with festival pill testing service

Lachlan Roberts 29 October 2019 29
Adriana Buccianti

Adriana Buccianti shared her story at the 24th Annual Remembrance Ceremony in Weston Park. Photos: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

A grieving mother has called for the festivals around the nation to provide pill testing services, saying her son would still be alive if the service had been provided.

Since her 34-year-old son Daniel died of a drug overdose at a Victorian music festival in January 2012, Adriana Buccianti has been a fierce advocate of pill testing. Ms Buccianti retold her story at Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform’s 24th Annual Remembrance Ceremony in Weston Park, a service honouring the memory of those who have died from illicit drugs.

Daniel was at the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Western Victoria when he called his mum around 6:00 pm on Saturday evening.

“He said to me, ‘mum, mum, come and get me, I have taken something that I have never taken before'”, Ms Buccianti told Region Media. “He told me had taken some acid, which I knew he had taken before but he said it wasn’t like anything he had taken before.”

Ms Buccianti started to get ready to drive to the festival and pick up her son, but before she left, she called him again to see how he was.

“I managed to get him again on his mobile phone around 7:00 pm but he said that I shouldn’t come and get him because he felt fine again,” she said. “He said ‘don’t come and get me, I love you and I’ll see you on Monday'”.

That was the last time she heard from her son. At around 8:30 am the next morning, the police were knocking on her door, saying they believed Daniel had died from a suspected drug overdose.

“I couldn’t for the life of me believe he was gone,” she said. “At the time, I was grief-stricken and I started calling for festivals to be closed and everyone had to go to jail.

“I had bought my son his ticket for the festival, so the following year I got a text message telling me to buy early bird tickets. You can imagine my reaction and I said some horrible things. It set off a chain of events, and the festival organisers and I started to collaborate and the following year, I opened the festival for them, sharing the message of staying safe.”

Memorial plaque

The memorial plaque erected by Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform in Weston Park.

In 2015, Ms Buccianti helped launch a petition for pill testing services to be provided at music festivals around the nation, which has gathered over 125,000 signatures.

“I didn’t want my son’s death to be a drug statistic so I had to make sure no other parent had to go through the same experience I have,” she said. “We have now had 12 deaths at festivals since 2012 and there are many others that we don’t hear about.”

The ACT Government is the only state or territory to have pill-testing service at its music festival, trialling the service at the past two Groovin the Moo festivals in Canberra. The trials have been labelled a success after seven people surrendered their illicit drugs during this year’s event.

Ms Buccianti is imploring every state and territory to follow the ACT’s lead, with the firm belief that pill testing would have saved her son’s life.

“I believe that if a pill testing service had been available, he would still be alive,” she said. “He was naive to think that the acid he took was the same stuff he had taken years ago. Not only is it important to test the substance but it is important to have a conversation.

“Regardless if people do or don’t take it, people can tell them that no drug is a good drug. The only way to guarantee to get out of here alive is not to take anything.”

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29 Responses to Mother calls for Australia to follow ACT’s lead with festival pill testing service
Wade Bermingham Wade Bermingham 9:20 am 30 Oct 19

Can't do that there no fine revenue no police working hard and effectively press release and theres a notable harm reduction

Ben Smith Ben Smith 8:00 am 30 Oct 19

Play silly games win silly prizes

Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 4:04 am 30 Oct 19

The billions spent on the ‘war on drugs’ has had lukewarm success. Clearly there are pills at music festivals. Clearly there are examples of 18 year old kids dying from bad pills, and as noted below, ‘just say no’ or ‘winners don’t use drugs’ doesn’t resonate with many. Logically no life is worth losing over prohibition rhetoric when prohibition is far from fail safe and people will use pills. Condolences to Ms Buccianti on her terrible loss.

Neil Goodwin Neil Goodwin 10:15 pm 29 Oct 19

So, kid tries pill at a festival. Gets it tested. All ok. Takes pill. Has a good time.

Later on, buys another pill in a nightclub based on encouragement from previous good experience at that festival . But no pill testing there. Has a rection this time and is injured or dies. Will u supporters of pill testing at festivals then put your hand up and say "sorry - but I contributed to that by supporting the pill testing that encouraged that pill taking". No, of course you won't. You will use some weasel words or excuse to absolve yourselves of that moral responsibility

Already there have been calls to set up more permanent pill testing stations around town - notably in Civic. Is that the sort of place u want to live in ? Seriously ?

    Travissi Gilbert Travissi Gilbert 11:15 pm 29 Oct 19

    Neil Goodwin Will you put up your hand and say you support organised crime staying in control of the drug trade by backing prohibition?

    Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 3:53 am 30 Oct 19

    Neil Goodwin if it saves the life of an 18 year old kid - and there are numerous examples of kids trying pills for the first time and dying - absolutely it is!

    Neil Goodwin Neil Goodwin 5:51 am 30 Oct 19

    Jim Hosie you couldn't have read what I wrote . It's the risk if secondary deaths/injuries .

    Sar Sturt Sar Sturt 6:40 am 30 Oct 19

    Neil Goodwin it’s not about blame.

    Neil Goodwin Neil Goodwin 6:43 am 30 Oct 19

    Sar Sturt didn't say it was. Read comment please.

    Renea Hazel Renea Hazel 10:48 am 30 Oct 19

    Neil Goodwin by your own logic, if there WAS a pill testing facility in Civic then the kid wouldn't have died from the pill he took in the nightclub. And WAY more secondary deaths and injuries from LEGAL alcohol use than any other drug.

    Neil Goodwin Neil Goodwin 10:58 am 30 Oct 19

    Renea Hazel see comment. Yes - one of the points I tried to make is that will this lead to a pill testing station on every corner scenario. Is that a desirable place to live in. Agree with you re alcohol. But alcohol is legal (as opposed to testing an illegal pill) and if you are drunk in a public place, u can be arrested .

Carole Ford Carole Ford 8:19 pm 29 Oct 19

If the regulators followed what the medical profession has said there would be drug testing units at every festival. The old tried method of 'just say no', doesn't and probably hasn't worked for years. Time to change our tack, try a different way that may just bring some sense to the senseless young people who seem to ignore the danger. The average youth brain isn't firing on all 4 cylinders!!

Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 6:09 pm 29 Oct 19

IT doesn't really matter, there will continually drug deaths at these venues...maybe it's the dealers and maybe it's the users, so why no ban the drugs or the the venues

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 6:23 pm 29 Oct 19

    The drugs are banned. Prohibition has never worked. There's plenty of evidence that pill testing significantly reduces the risk of deaths.

    Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 6:36 pm 29 Oct 19

    I'm against illicit drugs,but try as you might...the you try to stop these drugs the more people say they know what they're doing

    And yet more people end up getting dead

    So do you have a solution

    Rob Thomas Rob Thomas 6:50 pm 29 Oct 19

    Citation needed.

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 6:51 pm 29 Oct 19

    Lin Van Oevelen rubbish

    Leo Menssen Leo Menssen 6:51 pm 29 Oct 19

    No matter what is said people will use illegal drugs so might as well have pill testing.

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 7:21 pm 29 Oct 19

    The solution is what this grieving mother is talking about. Harm reduction saves lives. And while lots of people like to respond to this topic with Darwinian platitudes, that's what we're supposed to do as a society: care about each life.

    Ryan Daniel Ryan Daniel 9:51 pm 29 Oct 19

    Patoneym Myenotap when did they make these things illegal again? 50 years ago? Did that reduce the usage over the last 50 years? No it didn’t. If not, was that due to a lack of resources? No it wasn’t. So what else would you recommend? Seeing as 50 years of cracking down harder and harder and the world’s largest prison population in history existing in America mainly from people who are in there due to perceived risk to themselves, is it time to consider other approaches, especially when evidence has shown greater overall outcomes elsewhere from doing so?

    Travissi Gilbert Travissi Gilbert 11:16 pm 29 Oct 19

    Patoneym Myenotap The drugs are banned.

    Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 4:19 am 30 Oct 19

    Patoneym Myenotap Singapore has no drug problems it applies the death penalty and public cannings. Perhaps we should ban music festivals and move to this model of enforcement given the ‘war on drugs’ needs a push and kids are dying at music festivals and nightclubs? Though I’m not sure that even public floggings can revitalise civic square...

    Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 4:22 am 30 Oct 19

    Jorge Gatica let’s hope you never endure losing a child in such a senseless fashion. Don’t let failed ideology cost lives.

    Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 4:24 am 30 Oct 19

    Ryan Daniel well said...and let’s not forget the billions spent.

    Ryan Daniel Ryan Daniel 4:32 am 30 Oct 19

    Jim Hosie yeah billions spent, and also billions in tax revenue not gained as well. Double hit. Which could all go towards helping people in other ways.

    Stephen Matthews Stephen Matthews 4:33 am 30 Oct 19

    Jim Hosie Funny how there are no sniffer dogs at the melbourne cup

    Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 4:34 am 30 Oct 19

    Ryan Daniel depends whether you see drugs as a medical issue or a legal issue. I live next to drug addicts. It’s definitely a medical issue for them...having spoken to recovered heroin addicts they all say that nobody wants to be a drug addict and it was either family or support services, or a mix of both over time that pulled them out. I used to be firmly in the prohibition camp but I have changed my views significantly having seen the devastation in kids I’ve worked with previously and my neighbourly cohort of addicts.

    Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 1:36 pm 30 Oct 19

    Ryan Daniel WELL,why do the authorities need to check the potency of the drugs that concert goes take why not just arrest those who have the pills on their person

Kiriel Kiriel 10:40 am 29 Oct 19

The sooner that governments across Australia take the leap and say yes to pill testing, the better. We know from the vast experiment that was the Prohibition, that making drugs (in that case alcohol) doesn’t work.

Pill testing is just one part of trying to address this problem. But it is an important part, and would/does save lives.

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