Home Office grants Addaction first licenced drug checking service

Roz Gittins, director of pharmacy at Addaction, with the team from the University of Hertfordshire.

Roz Gittins, director of pharmacy at Addaction, with the team from the University of Hertfordshire. - Credit: Archant

A Weston charity is trialling the UK’s first licenced drug-checking service in a bid to save lives.

The Home Office has granted Addaction the first UK licence for the ground-breaking service which will enable people who have been putting their lives at risk by taking unknown substances to have the content of their drugs checked.

During the pilot, people will be able to visit Addaction to have a sample of the substance tested.

Addaction staff will give people advice on how to reduce any health risks associated with the substance and talk to them about the support available to help them make changes to their lives.

The Loop has been running a drug-testing service at festivals and nightclubs since 2016 and those who have substances checked are less likely to take them.

Addaction’s director of pharmacy, Roz Gittins, said: “This is about saving lives.

“We know people take drugs. We don’t have to condone it but nor should we judge people or bury our heads in the sand.

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“It’s our job to do whatever we can to help people make informed choices about the risks they’re taking.

“Checking the content of drugs is a sensible and progressive way to do that.

“If people know what’s in something, they can be better informed about the potential harm of taking it.”

The pilot will run in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire – a renowned leader in psychoactive substance analysis and drug detection research – with support from The Loop – a not-for-profit community interest company which provides drug safety testing.

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Roz added: “The work done by The Loop already shows people who have had substances tested often then decide not to take them, or take less than planned, resulting in less health issues and more information entering the national network of drug alerts.”

The anonymous service is open to anyone over 18.

Staff will do a 10-minute on-site test on the substance to determine the likely content.

The owner of the substance will also complete a short questionnaire to allow harm reduction advice to be tailored to their needs.

The service is available at Addaction, in the Boulevard, today (Wednesday) from 10am-5pm, March 6 from 10am-5pm and March 15 from 11am-7pm.