The first drug testing service licensed by the Home Office will allow users to have their illegal substances checked without fear of being arrested. If shown to save lives, the service could be rolled out nationally.
The year-long pilot project, launched in Weston-super-Mare by the charity Addaction, will allow anyone over 18 years old to take their drugs to the clinic. The drug testing process will take about 10 minutes, during which time the user will complete a short questionnaire to allow harm reduction advice to be tailored to them.
The launch of the service comes amid rising concerns that users are buying drugs which contain other potentially toxic or more potent substances. Cocaine laced with the synthetic opioid fentanyl has been linked to a number of deaths, while there have also been warnings about the sale of super strength and high purity ecstasy at music festivals.
“This is about saving lives”, said Roz Gittins, Addaction’s Director of Pharmacy. “It’s our job to do whatever we can to help people make informed choices about the risks they’re taking. Checking the content of drugs is a sensible and progressive way to do that. If people know what’s in something, they can be better informed about the potential harm of taking it.”
Combined drug testing project
The project is being run in partnership with Hertfordshire University and drug safety charity The Loop, which is providing the testing equipment. The Loop already conducts drug testing at music festivals, but this new project, which has been 3 years in the planning, is the first to be licensed by the government.
“It’s Home Office-licensed, but in addition to that we have a local agreement in place with the police force,” Gittins said. “So people will not be stopped and searched on their way in or out of the buildings, because they are supportive of what’s going on.”
Work done by The Loop at festivals shows that people who have had substances tested often then decide not to take them, or take less than planned.
Fiona Measham, Professor of Criminology at Durham University and Director of The Loop, said: “Three summers’ piloting festival testing and a year piloting city-centre testing has shown that drug safety testing can identify substances of concern, productively engage with service users and reduce drug-related harm.”
Although seaside towns have the highest rates of drug deaths, according to figures released from the Office for National Statistics, Addaction said Weston-super-Mare had been chosen for the pilot because it was relatively small, making it ideal for a test site. For expert advice on drug testing solutions, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.