Scotland’s First Drug Checking Services

Crew 2000 Scotland Response to the University of Stirling Scottish Drug Checking Project Research Launch 12/2/24

Why do we need Drug Checking?

There is no safe or reliable way to take drugs manufactured and sold from an unregulated market.  Less familiar drugs, like nitazines, powerful synthetic opioids, are showing up and causing real harm, and existing drugs may be miss-sold as something else or be much stronger than expected or needed, even from the same “batch” or source.

We’re losing far too many people to preventable drug-related deaths in Scotland: we have the highest rate of drug-related deaths per capita in Europe.  We saw the launch of the first regular city centre drug project in Bristol last week City Centre Drug Checking — The Loop ( and support for non-judgemental drug checking is now widespread.

What can Drug Checking do to reduce drug-related harms?

Drug checking helps to reduce drug harms by:

  1. identifying what drugs are in circulation quickly, in a safe, trusted setting, without judging or criminalising people
  2. warning people and services about new drugs and new harms, so they can make safer, more informed choices to reduce harm
  3. helping people access support, harm reduction and treatment as well as accurate information about what’s in the sample they bring for resting
  4. helping services adapt, improve and extend the support they offer, based on better information about drugs in circulation.

What did the University of Stirling study show us?

Different areas will have very different local needs, so we need to offer and test different models of delivery.  People told us -in the research- that they want knowledgeable, qualified, experienced staff they can trust in drug checking services, including medical professionals and people who have living or lived experience of drugs.

The study discussed 3 possible options: fixed sites run by a third sector organisation (for example a health or harm reduction charity), delivery within an NHS substance use service, or delivery in a pharmacy setting.

The most popular option was a service run by a third sector organisation – these were seen as safe spaces with existing high footfall, so people seeking drug checking wouldn’t necessarily be identifiable as such.

The 3 pilot cities, Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow are making good progress towards setting up services, with the first opening in the next few months.

Drug checking services are also needed in clubs and festivals, but most urgently now in communities – the vast majority of people dying from drug-related deaths sadly do so in their own home, and we know that people living in deprivation and inequality are disproportionately affected.

We also need to make it safer and easier for everyone to seek help as soon as possible at an event or at home if they have taken drugs and start to feel unwell.

The police are generally very supportive of drug checking: people accessing these services and staff working in them will never automatically be arrested just for seeking help.

What else needs to be done to reduce drug-related harms?

We also need to:

  • reduce the social and economic inequalities which determine health including drug harms
  • provide more non-judgemental, person-centred, trauma-informed, evidence-based support and treatment (including psychological support) to help people address drug harms as well the underlying issues and experiences that drive these.

Useful Links

Free, non-judgemental harm reduction information without judgement is available from Crew via our Edinburgh Drop-in shop, our free text and call back service: 07860047501 and Instagram DMs on @crew_2000, which are open Mon-Sat 1-5pm and Thurs 3-7pm.

There is also support available through Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs if you have lost someone to drugs, or been affected by another person’s taking drugs, and want to talk.

For more information on The Scottish Drug Checking Project, you can go over to their Hub, which is hosted on Crew’s website here. Their recently released summary report of their key findings is linked.


If you would like to learn more about the implementation of services in Scotland, please sign up to the Scottish Drug Checking Project mailing list. Please read the Privacy information notice.

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