Fear Of Police' Deters One Third Of Festivalgoers Seeking Help In Drug Emergencies

Published At: 24 May 2022 , 09:51 AM

More research has been undertaken in Australia in regard to drug use at festivals, with a new report released from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

The findings, which were published in the Drug And Alcohol Review on Tuesday, suggest that one in three young people who attended large music festivals reported that a reason they would not seek help in a drug health emergency is fear of getting in trouble by police.

The survey was conducted with 1,229 participants across six one-day music festivals in the summer of 2019-20.

The report is another talking point in the ongoing conversation in so-called Australia surrounding harm-reduction policies to be revisited with the return of large events over summer. 

35% of respondents and 41% of drug users stated that fear of police was a significant deterrent. Other large factors included being unable to find help (sitting at 20% of participants), or concern about family or friends finding out (sitting at 15% of participants).

Co-author of the study and drug and alcohol specialist Dr Jonathan Brett commented, “We need to rethink the black-and-white policy of ‘say no to drugs’.

“They are hypothetical situations ... but the power of the study is they were reporting it at the event, so they were in that frame of mind.

“Reform doesn’t have to be about pill testing, but it should focus on a harm-reduction approach rather than a punitive one.”

Reflecting on the study, Matt Noffs, CEO of youth and drug alcohol treatment service at the Noffs Foundation, stated that the trial results were no shock at all and would likely correspond to youth taking drugs in other spaces.

“When we trialled pill testing in the ACT, kids would walk up to police and ask them where the pill testing was,” he said.

“In NSW, where you’ve got drug dogs and an overall more aggressive stance towards kids using drugs, of course you’re going to have kids not trusting the police, and that’s not what we want."

Once again, the study reiterates that the role of police in response to drug taking is ineffective, with other methods potentially doing much more to reduce harm. 

Greg Chipp, managing director of Drug Policy Australia, summed it up perfectly, stating, “Drug use is a health issue, and this report has indicated treating it as a criminal issue has negative consequences.”

Read more: https://themusic.com.au/news/one-three-festival-punters-quote-fear-police-deters-them-from-seeking-help-drug-emergencies/qvS2vL--oaA/24-05-22

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