Advertisements resembling the Grim Reaper bowling ball campaign from the height of the AIDS epidemic should be used to warn young people about the harm of illicit drugs, an NSW inquest has been told.
Queensland forensic psychiatrist Russ Scott says the 1987 ad - depicting the Grim Reaper at a tenpin alley bowling at men, women and children - helped Australia communicate safety messages about sex and illicit drug use and reduce the spread of HIV.
"Australia led the way in reducing AIDS," he told the NSW Coroners Court on Thursday.
"We've not seen anything like that recently, warning young people about the harm of pills."
Deputy state coroner Harriet Grahame is examining the deaths of Alex Ross-King, Nathan Tran, Diana Nguyen, Joseph Pham, Joshua Tam and Callum Brosnan between December 2017 and January 2019.
All were aged under 24 and died from MDMA toxicity or complications of MDMA use after attending NSW music festivals.
Dr Scott said governments needed to broadcast it wasn't a certainty that hospitals could save all young people having an unintended reaction to illicit drugs.
"Many, many people with that information will decide 'I'm not using that drug'," he said.
Asked by Ms Grahame whether the progress in reducing HIV transmission was actually because of a widespread needle exchange program, Dr Scott said: "It was both of them."
However, when talking about using pill testing sites to deliver tailored drug safety messages, Dr Scott said: "It is absurd to argue that young people don't know taking drugs is dangerous."
Social worker Cameron Francis told the inquest young drug users had often forgotten or ignored messages delivered by schools or government.
"They valued what they'd heard off their friends, which was at most times not correct," he said.
Former Australian Federal Police chief Mick Palmer said pill testing wasn't a cure but changing the behaviour of even a third of participants was better than nothing.
"We might get that to 50 per cent," he told the inquest.
"If we are really concerned about people dying, then we have to be prepared to embrace pill testing.
"(Looking for people to arrest) is not the smartest way to do business and I think the evidence screams out at us."
Mr Palmer suggested governments and their police forces develop memoranda of understanding about what exactly would be policed if drug checking was introduced.
The inquest continues.
Australian Associated Press