Considering the prevailing policy-environment, where the unknown purity, adulteration, contamination, and deliberate or accidental misselling of drugs can compound the inherent dangers associated with drug use, safety models such The Loop’s Multi Agency Safety Testing are of vital necessity. Such services are an indispensable resource for those who use drugs across society; at festival and nightlife venues, at home, in drug consumption rooms, and other environments. They are also invaluable to service providers for detecting, monitoring and responding to newly evolving trends. 

Purity

Drugs may contain from 0-100% of an active substance.  You might experience no effect from one batch and you could overdose from the next. There can also be significant differences within batches.  As Kevin Flemen notes in this article:

“Crush – dab – wait has become a key message about starting with low doses of MDMA. Developed by the Loop, it is a field-appropriate method of taking a smaller drug dose on a moistened finger and waiting for one to two hours before taking further doses. In practice it can be hard to crush dense tablets in festival settings and if the drug in question is highly potent (such as a SCRA or a fentanyl) even dabbing could be a risk”.

Drug purity can, and does, vary wildly from batch-to-batch and within batches.  Last year, The Loop analysed ‘ecstasy’ pills which were found to be 100% concrete. Conversely, ecstasy pills with potentially lethal doses of MDMA have been detected throughout Europe. These wild inconsistencies are also commonplace in cocaine, amphetamine and heroin markets.

 

Adulteration, contamination and misselling

 

Multi Agency Safety Testing (MAST)

MAST allows people who use drugs to submit samples for analysis by trained professionals. Results are communicated to service users by trained drug workers as part of brief interventions.  The service is also provided to agencies on-site. Similar services such as the Austrian ChEck It, the Swiss SaferParty, the Spanish EnergyControl, and the Dutch Jellinek, have been operating for approximately two decades. MAST  can occur either through ‘front of house’ or ‘back of house’ testing and  “ we should aim for a gold standard testing system that includes both, in order to maximise public health benefits and minimise drug-related harm”.

 

‘Front of House’ Testing:

 

‘Back of House’ Testing:

  • WEDINOS (Welsh Emerging Drugs and Identification of Novel Substances), allows Welsh people to send in samples for laboratory analysis for free;
  • Spanish-based EnergyControl and US-based EcstasyData allow anyone to send in samples to analyse for a fee.

 

Benefits of MAST:

Provides information on the quality and purity of drugs to the people using them;

Provides a point of contact for brief interventions with people who use drugs, around their drug use;

Generally leads to safer consumption patterns (for example, when NPSs are detected, drugs are often discarded);

Can greatly enhance information gathering of substance use in given areas, and increase the responsivity of emergency services to newly emerging trends  e.g. WEDINOS has detected several previously unidentified NPSs,  the Trans-European Drug Information Project (TEDI)  monitors trends through-out the European region and the Nightlife Harm Reduction Network of the Americas is developing similar capacities.