Time to Test: The Loop to bring drug testing to city centres
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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Limited pill testing roll-out in New South Wales
Despite European-style pill testing having been outlawed by the New South Wales (NSW) government, thousands of kits will be handed out at Sydney music festivals this summer in a bid to minimise drug-related deaths – albeit in a less effective, do-it-yourself form campaigners warn will be unable to detect potentially dangerous cutting agents.
Just One Life – a joint venture between the Ted Noffs Foundation, Harm Reduction Australia, the Australian Drug Observatory, Students for Sensible Drug Policy Australia and DanceWize – will distribute the kits, which are legal to possess, at NSW’s summer festivals.
Harm-reduction activists had originally pushed had originally pushed for professionally run, clinical drug testing – of the kind in force in Britain, Austria, Spain and the Netherlands – which can detect adulterants and confirm exact dose levels of particular substances. However, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, four festival promoters “strongly in favour” of ‘proper’ pill testing were told by the government and police that, should they allow the practice, it would be seen as a “tacit admission” of drug use at their events.
“These kits give no information about purity … the government has ignored the evidence and expertise available to them”
As a result, the NSW drug testing kits will only be able to confirm if pills contain a particular drug (for example, MDMA).
“These kits give no information about purity,” notable pill-testing advocate David Caldicott tells the Herald, “and one of the biggest problems we have in this summer’s market is very high-dose MDMA”.
Two teenagers suffered overdoses from suspected high-dose MDMA at Groovin’ the Moo in Maitland, NSW, in April.
“It is disappointing,” adds Caldicott. “There is a far better way we could do this. But they [the government] have ignored the evidence and expertise available to them.”