The country’s first regular drug checking service has been launched in Bristol. Operated by harm reduction organisation The Loop in partnership with Bristol City Council, Bristol Drugs Project (BDP), and the universities of Bath and Liverpool, the free, confidential service will operate once a month.
Licensed by the Home Office, it will allow people to submit substances for testing with results available after an hour, along with ‘personalised, non-judgemental’ health advice. The council-funded service will also increase understanding of local drug markets for health services and the police, says The Loop, and will focus on ‘dependent, frequent and problematic use’ with the aim of reducing consumption of contaminated or adulterated drugs. Users of the service will be able to drop a small amount of drugs in an amnesty bin at BDP’s premises, and will also be signposted to other support services.
‘This is a landmark moment for harm reduction – after 12 years of preparations, evaluations and negotiations, it is fantastic news that The Loop can start the UK’s first regular drug checking service,’ said the charity’s founder and chair, Professor Fiona Measham. ‘With more cities due to follow soon, this launch represents the start of a new era for drug checking and it could not come at a more important time. The risks from adulteration of the illegal drug market have never been greater.’
‘I am proud that Bristol is the first city in the UK to have a regular drug checking service,’ added the council’s public health lead, Ellie King. ‘This new initiative is ultimately going to save lives. It also means our communities will be able to access scientific and evidence-based information about the drugs that they may consume and that are in circulation. This is about working in partnership to help reduce harm to our communities and empowering people to make safer, more informed choices, with access to drug treatment and further support.’