US drug overdose deaths surged to more than 100,000 this year for the first time during the Covid-19 pandemic, exacerbated by a flood of fake online pills

Victoria state will introduce drug checking or pill testing trials at music festivals this summer for people to test the makeup of pills, liquids and powders.

The premier, Jacinta Allan, confirmed Tuesday that Victoria will make pill testing a permanent service after an 18-month trial, slated to begin at the summer music festival. Mobile services will be launched for initial trials at 10 music festivals before fixing a permanent venue by 2025 in Melbourne, The Guardian reported.

"I want to be really clear here – this doesn't make drugs legal and it most certainly doesn't make drugs safe," Allan said on Tuesday. "We're doing this because all the evidence says it works. The evidence tells us it changes behavior. It's a simple, commonsense way to save lives."

Allan said drug overdose had caused 46 deaths in 2022 and that paramedics attended to more cases in the first quarter this year than previous years.

"So how do we confront this?" Allan said. "We can put our heads in the sand like politicians have done for decades. Or we can change behavior. We can engage young people in honest, open, focused conversations to work to change behavior."

Allan quoted figures from a 2022 study that found 86% of drug users in Portugal and 69% in the U.K. stayed away from drugs after test results indicated the contents were different than expected.

Earlier this year in Parliament, Victorian Greens, Animal Justice Party and Legalize Cannabis Victoria had tabled a joint Pill Testing for Drug Harm Reduction Bill stressing on the need for "evidence-based" strategies such as a mobile pill testing service for major music festivals and a fixed-site service, AAP reported.

Victoria's minister for mental health, Ingrid Stitt, said the legislation will be implemented to ensure that those operating or testing don't abuse the laws. She added that the project will cost AU$4 million. A permanent model and funding will be set up by 2026, Stitt said.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation welcomed the government decision; however, opposition leader John Pesutto said it will promote drug use among young people.

Currently, Queensland and ACT have legalized drug checking.