'Worth the test?' Pragmatism, pill testing and drug policy in Australia

Andrew Groves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Recent deaths of young Australian music festival attendees from 'party-drug' overdoses have sparked debate about the effectiveness of drug policies. Australia is widely lauded for its harm minimisation approach to drugs, and yet, over the last 30 years, it can be argued its policies have been fragmented, sometimes inconsistent and contradictory. The present article examines the root of this inconsistency, using it as a foundation to advocate for drug policy reform. In keeping with the goals of the National Drug Strategy to promote policy innovation, there is an opportunity to learn from international studies which have shown promising findings in the reduction of party-drug use and its harms through application of pill testing. 

Method: This paper evaluates Australia's National Drug Strategy and pill testing through a lens of pragmatism, to determine whether there is space for testing practices in contemporary policy. Specifically, the paper analyses current drug policy literature and research studies, examining a range of key drug use indicators, social and political debate and research evidence. 

Results: The need for policy reform, attitudinal and cultural shifts and development of stronger cross-sectoral partnerships is highlighted, to ensure a rational and logical approach that genuinely tackles drug policy-making and strategy from a broad public health perspective. 

Conclusions: Using a theoretical frame of pragmatism and drawing from national and international research evidence, this paper recommends the integration of pill testing into Australia's harm minimisation strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Number of pages13
JournalHarm Reduction Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Australian drug policy
  • Harm minimisation
  • Party-drug use
  • Pill testing
  • Pragmatism


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