The UK’s first regular drug-checking service has launched in Bristol today (January 27) thanks to harm-reduction charity The Loop.
The service, which will run on the last Saturday of every month, has been brought to life in partnership with the Bristol Drugs Project (BDP) and Bristol City Council and licensed by the Home Office.
It aims to reduce drug-related medical incidents by allowing those with “dependent drug use” to check whether their drugs are contaminated with “harmful cutting agents”. The service will be “non-judgemental, anonymous, and free”, and will additionally signpost further drug treatment and health services.
Founder of The Loop, professor Fiona Measham, said to the BBC: “It could not come at a more important time, the adulteration risks of the illegal drug market have never been greater.
“After 12 years of preparations, evaluations and negotiations, it is fantastic that we can start the UK’s first regular drug checking service. With more cities due to follow soon, this is a landmark moment for harm reduction.”
Drug users can use the service by placing small amounts into an “amnesty bin” at the BDP’s headquarters in central Bristol (11 Brunswick Square, BS2 8PE). The drugs will then be tested for its contents and strength, which will last an hour. Afterwards, those visiting the service can come back to receive individual harm-reduction consultations with professionals. No drugs will be returned after the service.
The launch of The Loop’s Drug Checking Service follows numerous calls for the UK government to support more drug testing at festivals. Drug checking has been shown to make festivals safer, according to the University of Liverpool. In June 2023, the Home Office retracted its support for drug testing at festivals, a move which was criticised by the live music industry.
The Loop were instrumental in bringing drug-checking services to festivals before this U-turn, where they regularly ran pop-up drug testing sites at Boomtown, Parklife and Glastonbury.
The charity were set to open their drug checking service in March 2022; however, the council delayed its opening last-minute. The license does not allow non-dependent drug users to test ‘party drugs’ such as MDMA.