Home Office grants Addaction first licenced drug checking service
Addaction is trialling the UK’s first licenced drug checking service in North Somerset.
People who are taking drugs can come into the service and have a sample checked. While there, Addaction staff will talk to them about the support available to make changes to their lives, and, once they know what’s in the substance, give targeted harm reduction advice.
Addaction’s Director of Pharmacy, Roz Gittins, who has lead the project, said: “This is about saving lives. 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.”
The Home Office granted Addaction the first UK licence for drug checking. The study is based on a harm reduction model that helps people make informed decisions.
The pilot will run in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire, a renowned leader in psychoactive substance analysis and drug detection research since 2010, with support from The Loop, which has successfully delivered drug safety testing services since 2016.
Amira Guirguis, Senior Lecturer and Principal Investigator for the project, from the University of Hertfordshire, said: “The drug checking service reflects our research vision on improving the identification of the actual content in drug samples, identifying potential sources of severe harm, gaining an understanding of novel trends and raising relevant alerts.”
Roz added: “We’re excited to be working in partnership with colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire and hugely grateful to the Home Office for granting the licence and to The Loop for their incredible work in this area in recent years.
“The work done by The Loop already shows that people who have had substances tested often then decide not to take them, or take less than planned, resulting in less health issues and more information entering the national network of drug alerts.”
The anonymous service will be available to anyone over the age of 18 who gives informed consent and agrees to provide a sample of their substance. Trained staff will do an on-site test to determine the likely content. The process will take about 10 minutes during which time the owner of the substance will complete a short questionnaire to allow harm reduction advice to be tailored to their needs.
Fiona Measham, Professor of Criminology at Durham University and Director of The Loop added: “This is an exciting development for Addaction, the Loop and for UK harm reduction generally, resulting from several years of hard work. 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.”
All partners involved in this pilot agree that they are not condoning the use of illegal drugs and samples are not returned to their owners.
Addaction also runs a free and confidential web chat service, staffed by trained advisors, at www.addaction.org.uk.