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UK launches drug testing service for illicit drugs

Published on 25/02/19 at 11:30am

The UK Home Office have licensed a drug-checking service for users of illicit substances. The yearlong pilot project, run by the charity Addaction, will allow anyone over the age of 18 to have their drugs tested.

The tests take ten minutes, during which period, users will be asked to complete a short questionnaire.

“This is about saving lives,” said Roz Gittins, Addaction’s director of pharmacy. “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 service comes amid growing concern that drug users are buying drugs containing other more potent or more toxic substances. Most recently, cocaine laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl was linked to a number of deaths.

“It’s Home Office-licensed, but in addition to that we have a local agreement in place with the police force,” Gittins said. “So people will not be stopped and searched on their way in or out of the buildings, because they are supportive of what’s going on.”

The pilot will launch in the coastal town of Weston-Super-Mare due to its relatively small population. The initiative bears many similarities to the Netherland’s Drug Information and Monitoring System, first launched in 1992. Similar programmes are also currently being trialled in Australia.

Louis Goss

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