Researching and developing key components of a new Scottish drug checking programme
The Drug Deaths Taskforce is funding a research project to explore how best to establish drug checking in Scotland. The two-year project (ending in January 2023) aims to build an evidence base for, and facilitate the development of, drug checking services in Scotland across three cities: Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. It will involve interviews with people with experience of drug use, affected family members, and a range of professionals, to gain an understanding of the key opportunities and barriers to providing city-based drug checking services in Scotland. The project will also analyse the international evidence on drug checking, and assess how such findings fit with a Scottish context.
The project will work closely with city leads in Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow to help inform the implementation of drug checking services. Other Scottish cities are also involved in the project as part of their ‘fact-finding’ process about drug checking and what it can offer. The study will also involve the development of standard operating procedures and Home Office licence applications for sites; and a community of practice, to share good practice in Scotland and internationally. A wide range of outputs will be produced over the duration of the study.
What is drug checking?
Drug checking services allow people to anonymously submit samples of psychoactive drugs for testing. On completion of testing, individuals receive information about the content and potency of the submitted drugs so that they can make more informed decisions about their use.
These services also provide an opportunity to engage in harm reduction counselling and can support access into other services. The primary aim of drug checking is to reduce the risk of harms, including drug-related deaths, to people who use drugs, with an associated reduction of harm to families, communities, and wider society.
Why is drug checking needed in Scotland?
There are currently no drug checking services in Scotland but many people would like to see them introduced. Drug-related death rates in Scotland have been increasing in recent years and are currently the highest per-capita in Europe. Poly-drug use is a key contributor to the high death rate, with many people using a number of drugs concurrently. The potency of these drugs is often unknown and can vary significantly, increasing the risk of fatal consequences. Additionally, drugs can contain potentially dangerous adulterants. Drug checking services allow individuals to have the potency and content of their drugs tested before use, and to receive information regarding what these drugs contain. Drug checking also contributes to public health surveillance of drug markets in local areas: when particularly dangerous samples are identified the service can issue tailored public health alerts.
Where can I get more information about drug checking?
Crew 2000 also have information about drug checking on their website. You can read more about drug checking from organisations who deliver services across the UK and internationally:
The Loop - https://wearetheloop.org/
WEDINOS - https://www.wedinos.org/
Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project - https://substance.uvic.ca/
Image credit: Gabriela P, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.