With most State and Territory governments dragging their feet when it comes to pill testing at music festivals, adult retail stores can play a crucial role in ensuring users get key information about the drugs they take.
Reagent testing kits are products that contain chemical testing tools to help users identify the substances within pills or powder being consumed. The most common reagents are marquis, mandelin and mecke – which change colour in a predictable way when in contact with certain drugs.
Depending on the reagent used, kits can react to recreational substances such as MDMA as well as common – and in some cases quite dangerous – adulterants such as PMA.
A kit’s colour reaction can then inform users regarding the purity of the drugs they are taking and whether they are willing to take the risk of a potentially dangerously dirty drug.
Best practice reagent testing kits come with a guide on what the kit can test for and what the colour change means. Although the kits are rather crude and should not be seen as an ‘all clear’ on the safety of a particular drug, they can at least assist in users reducing risks.
University student groups including the University of Melbourne Chapter of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy as well as the student guild of Edith Cowan University have been providing reagent test kits to students since October last year.
Adult retail environments, given their age-restricted nature, are an ideal venue to be selling reagent testing kits. However, retailers should also be providing drug harm reduction information at the point of supply and ensuring they are buying kits from reputable suppliers.
In an ideal world, pill testing would be undertaken by trained professionals using state of the art technology. However, with politicians still dragging their feet reagent kits are likely to still play a role in reducing drug related deaths.