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Time to Test: The Loop to bring drug testing to city centres

In response to growing drug deaths at clubs, festival harm-reduction specialist the Loop has launched a campaign to crowdfund drugs testing operations in UK cities

By Jon Chapple on 19 Mar 2018

Time to Test: The number of deaths from cocaine and MDMA is at an all-time high

The number of deaths from cocaine and MDMA is at an all-time high

image © Steve Buissinne

The Loop, the charity behind the pill-testing services at several UK music festivals, has called for the introduction of ‘regional drug-testing hubs’ in British cities to stem the alarming rise in the number of drug-related deaths.

Night Lives: Reducing Drug-Related Harms in the Night-Time Economy, a new report by the Loop, Volteface, Durham University and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, highlights the urgent need to reduce the harms associated with club drug use – revealing that though drug usage rates have remained broadly consistent, hospital admissions have spiked sharply, with drug-related deaths due to ecstasy and cocaine at their highest since records began.

It also recommends the adoption of a series of “bold yet practical initiatives” to combat the issue, including:

  • Drug safety testing services in night-time districts
  • An independent information service to reduce drug-related harm
  • Drugs awareness training for night-time staff
  • The adoption of the UK festival drug policy of the ‘3 Ps’ – prevent, pursue, protect – in licensed venues

Report co-author Dr Henry Fisher, health and science policy director at Volteface, comments: “While the UK’s drug market has rapidly evolved in recent years, measures taken to address harms have failed to keep pace and, as a result, our young people, public services and much-loved venues are bearing the brunt of this failure. Everyone we spoke to for the report agrees more needs to be done to reduce drug harms.

“This report provides innovative solutions to tackle them, such as drug safety testing services. It is now up to councils, clubs and police to work together to implement them.”

“Keeping people safe requires more than zero-tolerance rhetoric”

The Loop’s first festival partner was Secret Garden Party, in 2016, with Kendal Calling following shortly after. It also offered front-of-house testing at Boomtown Fair in 2017, and the organisation says it will work with “an increased number of UK festivals this summer”.

To help fund the launch of the scheme, along with the “growing demand” for its services at festivals, the Loop has launched a crowdfunding campaign, Time to Test, which aims to raise £50,000 by 15 June.

“Night-time venues are at the centre of British music culture, making our cities exciting and vibrant places to live while contributing over £66 billion to the UK economy,” says Jeff Smith MP, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform. “Keeping people safe requires more than zero-tolerance rhetoric around drugs and out-dated licensing laws. This report offers credible and tested solutions to help protect people attending events.

“I hope that venues, local authorities and the government will work together to make these recommendations a reality.”

To donate to the Time to Test campaign, visit crowd.science/campaigns/time-to-test.


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