More than 80 per cent of participants in the Australian-first pill testing trial at Canberra's Groovin the Moo believed they were taking MDMA, also known as ecstasy, when in reality less than half of all samples contained relatively pure MDMA, a new report has found.
The final report by the STA-Safe consortium, published on Wednesday, into April's trial at the Canberra music festival found that while 70 out of the trial's 83 participants believed they had bought MDMA, only 42 of the 70 pills contained some MDMA, and 32 contained a high purity.
The report also said patrons as young as 15 had bought pills in for testing at the festival, and 45 per cent of those taking part were aged 20 or younger.
Final analysis of data collected during the trial showed 125 people visited the pill-testing tent at the music festival. Eighty five drug samples were provided, 83 of them were usable test results.
Of the 83 samples tested on the day of the trial, 42 contained MDMA as the primary ingredient, while 17 contained fillers or cutting agents. Three people thought they had bought cocaine, but cocaine was the main ingredient in only two of the three samples and only one was relatively pure.
One drug was ketamine, an anesthestic and hallucinogen. Antihistamine, caffeine, dietary supplements, oil as well as toothpaste were also listed as some of the main ingredients in samples.
The report also listed a 36-year-old man tested what he thought was "meth", when the main substance was n-ethylpentylone, a stimulant responsible for the hospitalisation of 13 people in New Zealand earlier this year.
The man told clinicians that while he wasn't going to discard it in the amnesty bins provided, he would use less of the drug.
Only five patrons were seen to discard their drugs, but the report said "numerous discards" were seen in the vicinity of the tent after the festival.
"Pill testing as a harm reduction service at the ACT Groovin the Moo can be described as an overwhelming success," the report said.
"The pilot demonstrated that such an intervention is possible and that people are willing to use the service, despite the limitations arising from the tight timelines, inauspicious physical infrastructure and the lack of dissemination strategies on site during the festival."
While 58 per cent of those in the trial said they intended to use drugs as planned, 42 per cent said they would change their drug consumption behaviour. Twelve per cent indicated they would use less and 18 per cent said they wouldn't use illicit drugs.
"Those with low purity test results were more likely to be undecided or intend not to use or were more likely to say they would discard their drugs," the report said.
"However, even those with a high purity report said they would modify their behaviour."
The report said 90 per cent of participants were likely to tell friends about the result, and that further iterations of pill testing would be likely to convince more young people of harm minimisation.
Two patrons were turned away from the site due to intoxication.
Men were also twice as likely to have their pills tested than women.
With the exception of one Victorian user, all the participants came from either the ACT or NSW, while the area with the largest number of pill testers came from the Belconnen area.
While most services in the trial were conducted pro bono, the cost of the trial is estimated to be $34,000.
The report listed six recommendations, which included further instances of pill testings at music festivals in the ACT be supported, as well as the federal government advancing harm-reduction measures across the country.
It also recommended all levels of government work with the consortium to establish a national pill testing framework, as well as all state and territory governments engage with their ACT counterparts on introducing pill testing at similar events across Australia.
ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the success of the pill-testing trial had shown there was demand for the service at future events.
"This will assist to better understand how pill testing may help reduce the harms of illicit drug use at festivals and will inform next steps and future drug policy," she said.