The UK's first regular drug checking service is launching in Bristol this month, delivered by non-profit harm reduction specialists The Loop in a new partnership with the local authority.
Funded by Bristol City Council, and delivered by the award-winning drug checking and evidence-based information organisation, the new scheme uses a multi-agency partnership model involving the Bristol Drugs Project (BDP) and People's Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC). The overall goal is to reduce high-risk use of substances and build a fuller picture of the local illicit drug market.
Members of the public can confidentially test illegal substances free of charge, engaging in a process that has been proven to significantly reduce risk and harm. Personalised health advice will be available, with the doors set to open for the first time on 28th May 2022, sessions running monthly, with additional opportunities tied to significant local events in the city.
Samples can be dropped in an amnesty box located at the BDP — 11 Brunswick Square, BS2 8PE — where a specialist laboratory is now located. Non-judgemental, individually-tailored consultations with trained healthcare professionals will then take place one hour later at PRSC — 14 Hillgrove St, BS2 8JT — by which time substances will have been tested, with contents analysed and identified. No drugs will be returned after the service.
“As the first and only dedicated drug checking service provider in the UK, The Loop has been working for nearly a decade to establish regular drug checking services direct to the public and we are extremely grateful to the Home Office for issuing the licence to be able to offer this vital service," said Professor Fiona Measham, Director of The Loop and Chair in Criminology at the University of Liverpool.
"The Loop has a proven track record of designing and delivering evidence-based innovative interventions to engage with people otherwise not in touch with health services and to support them in making safer choices. Furthermore, the intelligence on local drug markets gained from drug checking is shared with stakeholders to inform emergency services, public health surveillance networks, and wider drug using communities. We would also like to thank our local partners for their support in introducing this groundbreaking multi-agency initiative," she continued.
Last summer, DJ Mag published an in-depth feature looking at the UK's drug laws. According to estimates from the Office for National Statistics, three million people took banned substances in the year to March 2020, including 21% of 16-24 year-olds. During the first year of the pandemic, 4,500 deaths were recorded as a result of drug use, up 4% on the previous 12 months but still significantly lower than the 7,500 alcohol fatalities registered in the same period.
In February 2022, the Home Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into the use of substances in the UK, current laws and regulations, and the impact on society, which includes assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. This will conclude in summer, and a full report is expected shortly after.
Revisit our 2018 feature on The Loop's vital work at UK festivals.