The Home Office has granted the UK’s first official licence for a drug checking service. Anyone over the age of 18 can now take a sample of their drugs to Addaction’s service in Weston-super-Mare for the contents to be tested. The service is completely anonymous, with staff available to discuss support options and offer harm reduction advice.
The pilot project will operate in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire, with additional support from drug testing service The Loop. The testing process takes around ten minutes, during which people will fill in a short questionnaire to ‘allow harm reduction advice to be tailored to their needs’.
Along with identifying the content of drug samples, the service will help to gain an understanding of new drug trends, identify potential sources of harm and raise alerts. The drug samples will not be returned to their owners.
‘This is an exciting development for Addaction, the Loop and for UK harm reduction generally, resulting from several years of hard work,’ said director of The Loop, Fiona Measham. ‘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.’
‘This is about saving lives,’ said Addaction’s director of pharmacy, and project lead, Roz Gittins. ‘We know people take drugs. We don’t have to condone it but nor should we judge people or bury our heads in the sand. 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.’