Drug checking is a harm reduction service that offers people who use drugs (PWUD) a place to anonymously check their drugs and get a personalized, fact-based analysis about what is in their samples. The main goal of drug checking is to empower PWUD to make informed decisions about the substances they intend to use so they can use more safely. Drug checking also provides public health with timely information about what we are seeing in the drug supply in certain regions around the province.
History of drug checking in BC
Publicly available drug checking first started in BC in the late 1990s as an informal, peer-based service in the electronic dance music scene. The technologies used then was informal colorimetric reagent testing of “ecstasy” pills, which was initially met with much resistance from local law enforcement. The BC Ministry of Health released a policy document in 2005 that recognized drug checking as an integral harm reduction strategy for PWUD.
In October 2017, the BCCSU partnered with regional health authorities, local community agencies, and various levels of government to expand the availability of drug checking services to include Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometers in addition to immunoassay fentanyl test strips in BC. This program was initially implemented in partnership with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority at Insite supervised consumption site and has since been expanded to sites in Fraser Health, Interior Health, and Island Health. This program pairs the use of FTIR with fentanyl immunoassay strips to rapidly and accurately analyze substances at point-of-care.
As a part of the drug checking project, an evaluation will be conducted on the service to determine how the community accepts the fentanyl test strips and FTIR technologies and look at who is accessing drug checking services, opinions about drug checking, behavioural changes that may come from using drug checking. READ MORE about the evaluation.