Knowing the pill you are about to take
Everyone is dancing in a bar, and suddenly there is a blackout. A young man falls to the floor, and there is no one to help him. He took a pill with alcohol, and the mixture produced an arrest. In a matter of minutes, he dies. Someone pulls him out. The rest continue dancing. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last. But that night, Ina C. is on the dance floor and decides that something must be done: she doesn’t want to dance again with dead people around her.
Ina has a degree in social work and knows from experience that being a recreational substance user is a lottery. In Argentina -and the places around the world that she has seen- there is no label of ingredients, quality control, or expiration date for psychoactive substances, so those who use them give themselves up to chance.
During her professional training in Mar del Plata, Ina studied consumption habits and specialized in harm reduction. Linking theory and practice, she started testing at the entrance of nightclubs three years ago to raise awareness of quality and adulterations. Thus was born Chill & Safe, an anti-prohibition movement that uses color-changing components to detect the content of pills and LSD.
How did it occur to you to start testing?
As a social worker and user, I used to see many people next to me who were convulsing and decompressed, and I felt helpless because there was no solution. In the beginning, I went with volunteers, and we handed out flyers, candies, and water and gave support if someone went into a crisis. But that had a limit because you can inform or accompany but people keep consuming any garbage. No matter how much I fan you, give you water, or tell you to go outside, there is no possible recommendation if the pill is degraded. You are going to get sick anyway. That’s when I contacted other organizations that were testing, and without being a reference and, much less an expert in chemistry, I started experimenting with the reagents at the door of the parties.
Do bars and music people in business collaborate?
When I started, I contacted the businessmen, and they told me, “look, you will come and make it visible that my club is consuming. You are crazy!” I had difficulty convincing some of them to let me be with the table testing. However, most of the time, it still happens to me that they put me in a corner and hardly notice that I am there, they promise me water to hand out, and in the end, they don’t give it to me. I have to pay for my cabs because they don’t collaborate. It is already being accepted that it is preferable to test rather than go to the extreme in other places. For example, I have a friend who does it in Colombia, and there it is seen as another opening. They directly promote it in the flyers so that the people who go to the event can know beforehand.
What happens once you do the test?
It is the first step, but it is not enough because the limitation is that I test the drug you will consume that night, but you are already inside the club, and you have already paid the entrance fee and the drug. In general, when it is of poor quality, you will consume it anyway because you have nothing else. Since the pandemic, it started to be seen that the substances were degraded a lot, the quality dropped a lot, and people got used to consuming what was available. There are very few people who end up dancing without taking anything or going home when they realize that they will take something adulterated. That’s why I think the next step is to fight for a drug policy and a regulation that accompanies consumption, always in addition to raising awareness. It is not the same to consume pure MDMA as a cathinone, nor is it the same to consume a substance without water and champagne. Regulation must be accompanied by an awareness of what drugs have and their possible risks. For this, we must understand the user as a subject of rights.
On the Chill & Safe website, you are mentioned as a feminist movement. What is the link between harm reduction and feminist care?
At night we see everything from abuse to prostitution networks. It is not a novelty that there are substances that generate a situation of vulnerability and are used to take advantage, which goes beyond the fact that there was consent at the time of taking a drug. To what extent does this knowledge continue? At night we replicate what is seen in other social spheres with heteropatriarchy. Together with the testing and harm reduction kits, we started to activate gender protocols to raise awareness on this issue that is present in almost all the areas where we participate.