It’ll take about 10 minutes
You can buy drugs on Tinder, Instagram, the dark web, the good old-fashioned way of messaging your local dealer, but you can never be certain about the quality of your purchase. Amid growing concerns of users buying drugs laced with other toxic substances or dangerously potent “super-strength” products, the Home Office is rolling out a new drugs testing service which allows over 18s to test their drugs without fear of arrest.
This year-long project had a soft launch in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset last Friday, but officially begins this week. The clinic, run by the charity Addaction, can provide content testing in about 10 minutes. While they wait, users will complete a questionnaire to get tailored harm reduction advice.
“This is about saving lives,” Roz Gittins, Addaction’s director of pharmacy tells The Guardian. Fake Xanax has been linked to a number of deaths, as has cocaine cut with the synthetic opioid fentanyl, and there have been warnings about the sale of dangerously strong ecstasy at music festivals. With rising drug-related fatalities, testing clinics could provide a much needed life-saving service.
“We know people take drugs,” said Gittins, “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.”
The project is being run in partnership with Hertfordshire University and The Loop, a drug safety charity, which is providing the testing equipment. The Loop already runs testing services at music festivals and has carried out a similar trial in a Bristol city centre pop-up. But the new Addaction project if the first to be licensed by the government.
While the Netherlands has been offering pill-testing as part of the public health system since 1992, not many countries offer government-licensed drug testing services. However, government-approved trials similar to the UK’s are also currently being held in Australia.