If you could find out exactly what was in your drugs, would you take them knowing they were made from cleaning products or concrete?
Last year, concrete and boric acid were detected in many of the pills sold as ecstasy at UK music festivals, with ground up ketamine and malaria tablets being detected in what people had assumed was cocaine.
This year, six to ten UK music festivals are offering onsite pill and powder testing to prevent the growing number of drug-related deaths regularly occurring amongst recreational users. How does it work, exactly? Well, the service lets users get their drugs analysed and in return are provided with advice, consultation and even counselling if they opt for it.
Mobile drug checking units have been readily available outside nightclubs in Zurich since 2001, as well as at Zurich’s annual Street Parade. There is also a Drug Information Centre that opened in 2006 and the US has impelled a harm reduction service for drug users called DanceSafe.
DanceSafe has been around since 1998, beginning with lab drug tests and now selling drug testing kits that can be used from the comfort of your own home. The results then get posted online to inform others of any harmful ingredients that might be in a certain batch of pills, for example.
The last seven years in Zurich haven’t seen a single drug-related death, while the UK on the other hand has already breached ecstasy-related death numbers from last year alone. The strength of the drug has seemed to play a huge role in the deaths, with the average content of MDMA now at 125mg per pill and some even reaching 240mg each. Previously at 50-80mg, this is a soaring increase and an immediate sign party-goers should proceed with caution.
The ‘front of house’ drug-testing service was used at least year’s Secret Garden Party festival in Cambridgeshire, with 80 substances tested and one in five users actually disposing of the drugs upon receiving the results. The test is run by The Loop and takes half an hour to test the substances, in which the users are then required to take a mandatory 15-minute intervention from a trained practitioner.
Implementing the testing service is a long and complicated process, and is one that will be properly implemented once it gains proper attention from the government and ultimately, government approval.