3 Jan 2019

Doctor warns of pros and cons of drug testing at festivals

7:50 pm on 3 January 2019

An emergency medicine specialist says testing of pills at festivals could bring benefits but there are also risks involved.

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Photo: 123RF

Testing at five festival events over the New Year found MDMA pills laced with the stimulant, N-ethylpentylone, also known as bath salts, which increases the heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature and can be fatal.

Police Minister Stuart Nash has now signalled his support for drug testing tents at festivals, but would that be successful?

Doctor Paul Gee, who works in the Emergency Department at Christchurch Hospital, says he often treats people affected by illegal drugs on weekends, especially in summer and on balance he thinks testing would be a positive step.

"I think it's good that people can get identification of the drug, that what they've bought is what they think it is and not laced with more toxic chemicals. But even the drugs they hope they've purchased, such as mdma and LSD do carry risks with them.

"There is the whole issue of dosing as well - too many of anything can be harmful for you."

Doctor Gee said one of the downsides of testing at festivals was that it facilitated the use of illicit drugs and even those perceived as being relatively safe such as mdma and LSD carried some risk.

He says just a couple of weeks ago a person ended up in intensive care in Christchurch after taking LSD and some patients who have used mdma have also needed critical care.

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