Drug testing booths to check the purity of illegal substances are being introduced to a UK town in the New Year.
Police in Preston are supporting the scheme which will see booths set up at nightspots in the Lancashire town so revellers can check their cocaine or MDMA. However, opponents to the initiative fear the drug testing service could be seen as condoning substance misuse and worry it could persuade people that the drugs they have are safe.
The drug tests will be carried out by charity staff working out of a caravan at weekends. Workers at the Loop will not handle the drugs directly and any of the substance involved in the test will be destroyed.
Those who use the service will not be charged and they will not have to give their personal details. They will also not be at risk of being charged with any drug-related offences.
The aim of the drug testing booths is to reduce the number of people dying or becoming ill from drugs which are particularly strong or have been mixed with other substances which are not suitable for human consumption.
Preston is the first town to launch the service
Preston is thought to be the first place in the UK planning to introduce the service regularly but similar drug testing facilities have been available at festivals and events in the past.
The Loop’s co-director Fiona Measham, who is also a professor of criminology at Durham University, told the Sunday Times: “It’s a very new service and some people might see it as quite radical, but it’s focusing on harm reduction.”
But not everyone is in favour of the drug testing scheme.
Professor Neil McKeganey, founder of the Centre for Substance Use Research at Glasgow University, said: “The police are advocating a view which one would not unfairly describe as facilitating drug use. By implication the green light has been given by the authorities to consumption.
“It’s hard to see how this isn’t an absolute breach of our current drugs laws.”
Drug testing is traditionally associated with finding out whether an individual has been using illegal substances. AlphaBiolabs offers drug testing services to local authorities, courts, businesses and other organisations.
Members of the public can also order drug tests online so they can find out whether a loved one has been misusing substances. These tests include a simple-to-use kit which can be used at home to test urine and gives an accurate result in just five minutes.