The country’s first regular drug checking service to be licensed by the Home Office will open in Bristol later this month, provided by harm reduction body The Loop. The organisation has been providing drug-testing facilities at festivals for almost a decade.
The new service will combine testing with ‘personalised health advice’, says The Loop, and will be delivered in partnership with Bristol City Council – who are funding the scheme – alongside Bristol Drugs Project (BDP) and local community organisation the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC). The free, confidential service will be operated by The Loop’s team of chemists and healthcare professionals, and is designed to build a comprehensive picture of local drug markets as well as reducing the risks around drug use. Last summer, one person died and 20 were hospitalised in Bristol during a single weekend as the result of a ‘rogue batch’ of ‘Tesla’-branded ecstasy pills.
Drugs handed over will be subject to laboratory analysis, with the results shared ‘as part of a personalised health consultation’. Following its launch on 28 May, the service will operate once a month as well as during events such as Pride or local music festivals, The Loop states. In a survey of face-to-face drug testing brief interventions at music events by the University of Liverpool, more than 90 per cent of respondents stated that it had influenced their subsequent drug-taking behaviour, with many saying they’d be more cautious about using multiple drugs and less likely to buy drugs from strangers.
‘As the first city in the UK to have a regular drug checking service in the heart of the city we will be able to provide communities with access to factual, scientific, evidence-based information about drugs they may consume and that are in circulation throughout the wider city,’ said Bristol City Council’s cabinet lead for public health, Ellie King. ‘This, alongside the one-on-one trained healthcare consultation, will empower people to make safer, informed decisions and access drug treatment and further support.’
‘As the first and only dedicated drug checking service provider in the UK, The Loop has been working for nearly a decade to establish regular drug checking services direct to the public and we are extremely grateful to the Home Office for issuing the licence to be able to offer this vital service,’ added The Loop’s director, Fiona Measham.
‘The Loop has a proven track record of designing and delivering evidence-based innovative interventions to engage with people otherwise not in touch with health services and to support them in making safer choices. Furthermore, the intelligence on local drug markets gained from drug checking is shared with stakeholders to inform emergency services, public health surveillance networks, and wider drug using communities. We would also like to thank our local partners for their support in introducing this groundbreaking multi-agency initiative.’