Between lockouts, sniffer dogs, and some of the harshest drug penalties in Australia, Sydney's party culture has evolved into a pretty weird beast. If you're a banker, you're probably going to be fine—even under the prohibition-loving Baird Government, the city remained Australia's cocaine capital. But for your average punter, things have become a little more complicated.
In Sydney, riding the train with a little weed in your pocket can see you hauled up by a drug dog. Doctors aren't even immune. When some of them floated the idea of pill testing at music festivals over summer, the NSW police minister threatened them with drug possession, supply, or even manslaughter. It probably goes without saying but, in the wake of all this, people are a bit shy to bring their drugs out for testing.
But drug use in Sydney definitely hasn't disappeared, it's just gone underground. So to find out what's floating around Sydney in terms of MDMA, and what locals think about pill testing, we visited a few people at home.
VICE: So Anon, what were you expecting this to be?
Anon: It's ecstasy, so that's MDMA right?
But what is it really?
I guess based on the green/yellow/black colour chart they're methylone, or possibly 2C-B, and maybe a bit of DXM. Basically everything except MDMA.
How do you feel about that?
I guess it's a little bit of a wake up call. I guess it's probably taken for granted that when you get a pill it'll be a mix of all kinds of shit, but it's still gross and confronting to see.
You said you took one of these last night. What was the effect?
Well I got heaps of energy and I didn't really sleep at all. It made my heart race a lot. It did feel good briefly, and then it was a sharp decline.
If you'd seen these results yesterday, would you have still taken it?
Probably not. I'm a pretty rational person and if I knew what I was actually putting in my body then I wouldn't have. They say ignorance is bliss so its good to be confronted with the reality of what you are actually doing to yourself because it makes it less removed.
You say you got these off a friend?
Yeah, I was at an outdoor day party and I got these off a friend. It's pretty bad that they were selling these. I wouldn't sell these to friends or at all. Like if it's full of bad shit, that's kind of fucked.
Have you ever taken MD and had a really bad experience?
Yeah I once took a pill that had been gifted by a friend as a pinger but it turned out to be something else. It was Sunday morning and we all took this pill, and all three of us had the worst experience. None of us could actually stand up, and all of us were having the same experience where everyone looked like their flesh was melting off their body and it lasted for hours and hours. We got just stuck in this vortex. It was honestly one of the worst experiences and I was really shaken up by it. I definitely wouldn't have taken that if I'd known.
VICE: So where'd you get the drugs?
Lars: I got these off a friend of a friend, you could say.
Do you trust this friend of a friend?
Yeah I definitely do, I would never buy something that I don't believe is quality, and I don't associate with people that I don't trust.
Hopefully these results will back you up, what should they say?
I think they'll come up with MDMA, they look clean and I've had pretty good feedback so far.
So they're purple. You're happy with the results? I mean you mentioned you don't take it yourself.
Yeah that's good news I like to know that it's clean. Not anymore, I stopped taking it because of my job a while ago but I usually do test every batch I get, I just picked these up but it's good to know there's a reliable flow of quality.
Do you think they should legalise pill testing in festivals?
Lars: I definitely think it would be a good idea, I don't see why they shouldn't? I mean like people are going to take them no matter the risk, they are only going to save lives by doing it. People have gone and spent money on drugs they are obviously going to take them, It's not like they are going to bring them and … Not take them? Right?
Guy from across the room: DUDE I'd be too scared to go in there if they had pill testing! Fat chance there wouldn't just be a bunch of undercovers ready to put you in handcuffs as soon as you walk out
Good point. Do you think it would change the atmosphere of a party if you could legally test your pills?
Lars: Oh for sure, If I didn't have to worry about ending up behind bars when I'm just trying to have a good time and listen to music, it would be a whole different world. Hell if they had testing, I'd bring in extra just to see what's in them, and I'd hope that every single dealer there would do the same, you'd be a dick if you didn't, it just makes it safer for everyone.
Would you take it if it came up with something dodgy?
Haha I've probably had worse so I'd say so, I've eaten a floor pinger or two in my time.
In the midst of carefully choreographing my night so I didn't end up in a queue when lockouts kicked in, and getting to the train station before I'm stuck catching a $130 Uber home—I found someone willing to risk their arse in the name of journalism.
VICE: So how do you think these results will go?
Stephen: I hope they come up clean, but I'll eat most things as long as they won't kill me.
It doesn't worry you that this might kill you?
Well, tonight it does. I just don't really feel like being caught five trippy stingers deep in a park at four in the morning with some dude blasting my ear off looking like Moe Szyslak had a baby with a kaleidoscope. There's a time and place for everything.
Sounds like you're speaking from experience here.
Experience, trauma, yeah I guess if you take enough uppers there's a point every weekend where shit will get weird and you end up in a crazy sexless orgy of dress-ups, backrubs, and confusion.
Sounds pretty weird. So these have shown up as ecstasy, are you stoked?
Yeah that's good, I'm on day two and I've done enough drugs to knock out a horse but these should keep me going for the next few hours
Day two? Surely something weird has gone down, it's almost Sunday.
Yeah I guess, probably not the weirdest thing that's happened on the Larry but our mate rocked up at about midday today after having a quiet one last night, and he's decided to go and build a flying fox in the front yard for us, I'm surprised no one's dead but he knows his way around a tree by the looks of things
You're kidding right? That's pretty inventive for a bunch of druggos.
Nah, you need activities to stop you from going batshit crazy—but most of us just sat and stared, trying to figure out how anyone could do something like that at this point in a bender
I'd say you're insane already. But I must ask, what are your thoughts on public pill testing?
Dude, I don't go to festivals much but I've seen when things go wrong and it's not cool. Honestly, 9 times out of 10 it isn't even dodgy drugs, it's a first timer freaking out when they see a doggo and deciding they are the Red Grin Grumble of taking drugs and down their whole stash. Stop the dogs and legalise testing, people will take what they want to take, when they want to take it and all this bullshit is just killing innocent people and ruining families for a bit of short term profit and an excuse to spend government budgets
VICE: So, formalities first, what do you think the results will be?
Joe: Anything and everything!
Say you've got pills and they come up with PMA or something dodgy would you take it?
Dude I've taken pingers where I know it's got meth or crack or something dodgy in it and it's been the worst experience of my life. I started testing everything after that for a while, but now I trust my mates and I know it's going to be whack shit.
Joe and I pause for a few moments as a suspicious black Commodore with a few extra antennae slowly drives past. The last thing I want to do is get felt up in a back alley by some overzealous officers of the law.
VICE: Back to business, say they brought in pill testing, what would that mean for clubbing?
Joe: It's not going to matter, people are still going to buy drugs—it's the whole nightlife, it's cheaper, easier and faster, it doesn't matter what it's got in it, if it keeps you up and keeps you going in a club, people are going to buy it.
I decided we probably weren't in the best spot to be going through the process of breaking open a testing kit and meticulously hacking at some drugs. So we walked to somewhere a little quieter. As we sat down, a gentleman approached us and asked, "Oi brah, you wanna buy some M?" I declined, and he politely declined my request to test his drugs.
VICE: So the results look like amphetamines, isn't that just speed?
Joe: Eh, they cost me five bucks and I'm just gonna sell them for $25 so that doesn't really surprise me. I think that's a good result anyway, better than having fucking bath salts or something. [Joe licks the entire crushed pill from the screen of his phone and I am impressed.] Blleeeuuurrrrrghhhhhh!
Do you think they should bring in pill testing?
If you do it, you're gonna do it. If you want to do it safely that's up to you. People don't usually buy off randoms, they know what they want to buy and they get it in advance
But if you could safely go out in the city knowing that it's going to be quality assured, isn't that better?
I don't think it would be possible to test in every single club, but it would be cool if they did. I don't see why they don't just make it legal anyway, you're gonna make up your own mind on what you want in your body. If they make it legal they are cutting out dealers, cutting crime and making things safer for everybody.
VICE: What do you think it is?
I don't know.
You just have no idea?
I mean, if you want an answer I'd say MDMA, but I don't know.
And you don't care?
I don't care.
So the test has come up black. A kind of purple black. I reckon it's purple. So it's ecstasy, that's good. Would you take it?
Yeah, I mean I have before, so.
What if it came up yellow? Would you still take it?
If I was with other people who were taking it as well, then yeah.
When you took this previously, what did it feel like?
Molly. I only use it to keep me up, give me energy.
If drug testing kits were more readily available, would you use them?
Yeah for sure.
So it also looks pretty black. Do you know what DXM is?
I guess it's dexamphetamine. But I don't know what that means.
And does that concern you?
No, people do meth everyday, just like they do MDMA. I know it tells you what it is, but it's up to you how much you take once you know what it is. It could help you be safer but you don't know how strong it's going to be. It could be ecstasy and then you take it and it puts you on your arse way harder than the last time. But I guess having these tests you'd probably get a better idea, it's one less thing to be worrying about I suppose.
Have you ever had a bad time on a cap?
Yeah. It was just really intense. Just panic and serious anxiety and primal stuff. And just feeling sick and gross like you're going to throw up.
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Disclaimer: We aren't scientists. We ran a handful of tests, in a handful of cities, over the course of a few nights. These kits aren't going to identify the presence of some non-testable poison. Plus, there's no guarantee you have the same MD—drugs differ from place to place, night to night. But you already knew that.
Note: These articles were made possible by EZ Test who donated all testing kits free of charge.