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Pill testing clinic

Pill Testing: Will It Be Rolled Out Across Australia?

Pill testing is a reasonably new practice, one which not everyone agrees with. While Australians are only really discovering pill testing now, the practice has been around for close to 50 years. 

The first ever Australian pill testing clinic was established in Canberra in 2022 and has since returned some very interesting findings. 

The clinic, which is called CanTEST, allows people to bring their drugs in to be tested to ensure they know what they are ingesting without risk of getting into trouble with the authorities. More often than not, the drugs that you think you’ve purchased are actually made up of other dangerous or completely harmless substances which you’ve likely paid an arm and a leg for. 

Just recently, someone had their “cocaine” tested by CanTEST only to find they had been sold a bag of garden fertiliser. 

While there is only one clinic in Australia, another is due to be established in Queensland. Home tests can also be purchased online but lack the accuracy and rely heavily on chemicals changing colour, leaving plenty of room for human error.

According to Cosmos Magazine journalist Ellen Phiddian, the home tests are also limited to one substance. 

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“If you do a test you believe is MDMA and it confirms that yes, it is MDMA – you will need to do another test to check its purity,” she said.

This means you will need to do a third test to check for common contaminants and a fourth to test for less common contaminants such as fentanyl. 

Despite there only being one manned clinic in Australia, pop-up pill testing booths have appeared at music festivals such as Groove in the Moo. If you want to have your drugs checked, you simply hand over a sample to the drug expert, you tell them what you think  the drug is that you’ve purchased, they take a scraping and results are returned in a matter of minutes. 

The service is completely free of charge and entirely confidential. 

Cosmos Magazine journalist Ellen Phiddian takes us through how scientists determine which drugs are present in a single pill, why the service is legal and confidential and when we’re likely to access new technology capable of similar drug detection from our own smartphones. Tune into the full episode below…

Huh? Science Explained is here, the twice-weekly podcast brought to you byLiSTNRand Cosmos.