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There’s now somewhere to get your drugs legally tested in the UK

The service will be run by The Loop and launch in Bristol at the end of June

The UK’s first-ever licensed drug-checking service will open later this month in Bristol. 

The government has granted a licence for the service, which will anonymously test people’s illegal substances for strength and purity. The service will be run by The Loop, a non-profit, harm reduction organisation, and led by their team of professional chemists and healthcare workers, with the aim of reducing high-risk drug-taking and mapping the illicit drug market in the local area. 

The service will be completely confidential and free to access, running once a month with additional opening hours to accommodate for big local events. It’s set to open to the public on June 25.

Drug testing has been proven to reduce drug-related harm by allowing users to access relevant information to make more informed decisions about drugs.

Dazed spoke to Guy Jones, senior scientist from The Loop, ahead of the service’s launch.

How will the service work?

Guy Jones: Service users will be able to come to us to deliver a substance of concern. They can then return later the same day, or at the session the next month. A member of our healthcare team will ask a few questions about them such as any medications they take, whether they plan to take other drugs, whether they have taken the drug and some other considerations.

They’ll then explain the test result and use the information collected to tailor the advice to make it completely relevant to that individual and give the greatest reduction in risk possible. If needed, the service user can give other substances in their possession for destruction.

We can never return any substance given to us. 

Do you hope free drug testing services will be available nationwide in the future?

GJ: We’d love to see free testing services available nationwide – clearly having such a useful service available in Bristol is fantastic and allows us to issue alerts about risks on the drugs market, but of course being able to precisely tailor the information we give to each individual is an incredibly powerful tool.

Why are these services – and harm reduction more generally – so important?

GJ: We know that people continue to take drugs regardless of their legal status. Drug deaths are currently at their highest level since records began, despite the fact that the number of people using drugs is far off its peak.

Being able to reach people who are most at risk of harm allows us to deliver a very precise intervention to help reduce that risk and keep people safer.

What can the government do to tackle drug-related deaths?

GJ: Drug-related deaths are much more than just “people take drugs and they sometimes die”, as shown by the disconnect between the high numbers of deaths but the low numbers of people who use drugs compared to the past.

Interventions to prevent deaths need to address various aspects such as reducing poverty, increasing engagement with services, reducing exposure to adulteration and encouraging reducing risk among populations that are not in reach of services.