With a rise in designer drugs and easy access to many other drugs, Professor Fiona Measham, Chair in Criminology at the University of Liverpool, is the founder and director of The Loop. The Loop is the first UK legal drug testing service to check what is in a drug purchased for recreational use.
Professor Measham is confident that the service will save lives by preventing overdose from drugs that are not the substances they have been sold as. One such drug is Fentanyl, up to 100 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin, cocaine and other drugs to enhance the effects when cut with other non-active substances, such as baking powder. But the people using these drugs have no idea that they contain Fentanyl and that they could be at serious risk of drug addiction, overdose and death.
Although Reagent drug testing kits have been legally available to buy for many years, they can only produce an “as expected” result. All this means is that the drug is probably what you have been told it is, but it gives no indication of the actual mg, so a pill could contain 100mg or 300mg of MDMA, also called Ecstasy or Molly. Another issue is drug testing kits can be unreliable and might not pick up on the presence of a drug, such as Fentanyl when mixed with MDMA and cocaine. However, the kt would indicate if the MDMA you have been sold is the new fake “MDMA” drug 4-chloromethcathinone (4-CMC).
We asked Danielle Bryant, Treatment Director and Co-founder of Step by Step Recovery, residential rehab in Essex and outpatient addiction treatment service, for her view on the new drug testing service that The Loop will provide.
“A 100% safety check does not exist with illicit drugs, but by checking what is in drugs, at least people are warned if the drugs they buy are not what they have been told they are. Many drug users will not go to the trouble or expense of testing drugs in advance, and The Loop provides an easy-to-access free drug checking service which could save lives.”
Danielle added, “ As a professional, I see people who take designer drugs or prescription drugs because they think they are safe and never thought they would become an addict. My concern is that people will have a false sense of security and think they can consume drugs that have been tested by The Loop and not be at risk of harm.”
The Loop was recognised this November as the first not-for-profit service offering drug testing after a review that the Charity Commission conducted. Professor Measham said this would provide a “greater opportunity to secure further funding”. She added that this would allow The Loop to expand and provide testing and ultimately save the lives of more people.
“With a continuous increase in the number of people experimenting with designer drugs and new synthetic drugs entering the market, it’s difficult to know what effect a service like The Loop will have. What I do know is that The Loop will be the first service that is completely focused on harm reduction, which surely must be the only way forward.”
Professor Fiona Measham said their first regular not-for-profit, licensed drug-checking service will open in January in partnership with the Bristol City Council and the Bristol Drugs Project (BDP). The Loop will further support the work done by the Drop, run by the BDP. The Drop aims to help people make informed decisions about legal highs, recreational and party drugs. In addition to providing information, and support, the Drop provides outreach services at events and drug awareness training for club and festival staff.