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Youth Peer Advocate Daniel Robinson Croft pleas that Premier Allen introduce pill testing immediately

Daniel Robinson Croft is a lived and living experience Youth Peer Advocate at Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS), Australia’s largest youth-specific community service organisation focussed on youth alcohol and other drugs, mental health and youth services. Daniel frequently volunteers for various harm reduction services within Victoria and is a community campaigner for pill testing and drug law reform.

Too many young Victorians are continuously dying, and many others are having their lives negatively impacted and ruined by the ongoing war on drugs. We often hear about the deaths and overdoses from illicit drugs, but we don’t often hear the stories of young people who have had to live with traumas caused by harmful drug use, which could have easily been prevented if drug checking services were available. 

For the past hundred years we have lived in a society where young people are told to just say no and are not given the necessary harm reduction strategies when it comes to illicit drugs. I remember when I was in school and we had drug education, for most of the classes the teachers would provide us with useful information regarding alcohol and how to drink responsibly. However, as soon as it came to learning about illicit drugs, we were told about the negative side effects and instructed to just say no. This leads young people, who are either already taking them or are curious about taking them, including myself at the time, to seek information elsewhere. This usually means from other peers who use drugs or from online forums, which most of the time these people didn’t know what they were talking about which often leads to harmful drug habits and that’s exactly what happened to me.

I will never forget the first time I took what I thought was MDMA, and it wasn’t necessarily because I had a good time. In fact, it was quite the opposite but it didn’t have to be that way if drug checking services were available.

When I first took what I thought was MDMA, I had an experience that took me years to mentally recover from. With no prior education around using drugs I decided to take a pill after a few hours of drinking. This led to periods of blackouts and pass outs with moments of consciousness where I was being robbed, beaten, and humiliated by a large gang, left passed out with nothing but a ripped t-shirt and ripped shorts. I had no recollection of how I had gotten into that position and could only think of more questions than answers for myself.

For years the memories haunted me but it never stopped me from using drugs, I continued to use illicit drugs without harm reduction measures and time after time again I kept putting myself into reality shattering experiences due to playing what I call “pill roulette” and being blasted into unexpected experiences which were tough to recover from. After some time I decided to check myself into detox and what I learnt there changed my life. I learnt about harm reduction and how to use drugs safely and since then I have had nothing but positive experiences with drugs. If drug checking services were available, I would have been equipped with lifesaving education and information that would have prevented me from having to go through the kind of experiences I had to live through and I wouldn’t have to be sharing my story today.

Introducing drug checking services is not about green-lighting drugs or drug use; people use drugs, and that’s never going to change. But what we can change is giving Victorians access to services that will save their lives. If we’re not going to introduce a regulated market, then the least we can do is introduce drug checking services and prevent avoidable deaths. 

My plea for Premier Allen is that she do what’s not only ethical, but practical; To reduce drug related harms, prevent critical youth overdose incidents and deaths, and implement drug checking services immediately across the state.

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This opinion piece was featured on ABC Health & Wellbeing on 11 February 2023.

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