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Victorian coroner calls for pill testing at music festivals



The mother of a man who died after a drug overdose decades ago has backed calls from a Victorian coroner to introduce pill testing at music festivals.

Coroner Judge John Cain has today released his findings recommending the state government implement pill testing following the death of a 26-year-old IT worker.

The man took a 'Blue Punisher' pill while with friends at Karnival Music Festival in Flemington in March last year.

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The pill included dangerously high concentrations of MDMA.

He was rushed to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with multi-organ failure and brain swelling before he died.

"It is impossible to know whether, had a drug checking service existed, (the man) would have submitted a sample of an MDMA pill for testing before taking it at Karnival," Cain said in his findings.

"Notwithstanding this, a drug-checking service would have at least created the opportunity for him to do so, and for him to receive tailored harm reduction information from the drug-checking facility.

"It is likewise impossible to know whether, had (the man) been provided information of this type, he would have changed his drug consumption behaviour; but likewise, in the absence of a drug checking service, this was not a possible outcome."

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Adriana Buccianti's son Daniel died in similar circumstances after suffering a drug overdose at the Rainbow Serpent music festival in 2012.

She believes drug and pill testing would have saved him.

"He would have thrown it out because he wouldn't have wanted this pain for his mother and his family," Buccianti said.

It's the fourth time a Victorian corner has made the request to introduce pill testing in the state since 2021.

A study by La Trobe University has shown more than half of Australians support drug-checking services, with the highest support coming from those aged 25-34.

"The evaluation of testing that has been trialed so far in Australia has been quite positive," La Trobe University's Dr Gabriel Caluzzi said.

"A lot of the time there are things in there people aren't aware of."

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Mental Health Minister Gabrielle Williams said the government did not have immediate plans to introduce pill testing.

"Should there be evidence to suggest that there's more that we need to do, of course, as policymakers, we will look at it," she said.

"Our thoughts go out to the family of that young man. And, of course, any death in these circumstances is one too many."

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