Crew is delighted to support and host the new Scottish Drug Checking Project Online Hub. Sharing the results of this research will raise awareness and understanding of the potential for drug checking to help Scotland respond better to emerging drug trends and prevent drug-related harms more effectively. It will also help provide evidence to ensure services and budgets are developed to meet changing needs.
A new Scottish drug checking programme
This study, Researching and developing key components of a new Scottish drug checking programme, is funded by the Scottish Government, Corra Foundation and Drug Deaths Taskforce and aims to explore how best to establish drug checking in Scotland. The two-year project (ending in March 2023) aims to build an evidence base for, and support the development of, drug checking services in Scotland across three cities: Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee.
The study involved interviews with people with experience of drug use, affected family members, and a range of professionals, to gain an understanding of the key opportunities and barriers to providing city-based drug checking services in Scotland. The project has also analysed the international evidence on drug checking, to assess how such findings will fit with a Scottish context.
Crew were part of the advisory group for the project, working closely with city leads in Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow, who continue to help inform the implementation of drug checking services. Other Scottish cities are also involved in the project as part of their ‘fact-finding’ process about drug checking and what it can offer.
The study also involves the development of standard operating procedures and Home Office licence applications for sites. A wide range of outputs will be produced over the duration of the study and can be found at the bottom of this page.
What is drug checking?
Drug checking services allow people to anonymously submit samples of drugs for testing. Once the sample of drugs has been tested, individuals receive information about the content and potency of the submitted drugs so that they can make more informed decisions about their use.
These services also provide an opportunity to engage in harm reduction counselling and can support access into other services. The primary aim of drug checking is to reduce the risk of harms, including drug-related deaths, to people who use drugs, with an associated reduction of harm to families, communities, and wider society.
Why is drug checking needed in Scotland?
There are currently no drug checking services in Scotland, but many people would like to see them introduced. Drug-related death rates in Scotland have been increasing in recent years and are currently the highest per-capita in Europe.
Poly-drug use (taking more than one drug at the same time) is a key contributor to the high death rate, with many people using a number of drugs concurrently. The potency of these drugs is often unknown and can vary significantly, increasing the risk of fatal consequences. Additionally, drugs can contain potentially dangerous adulterants (unexpected or unwanted contents).
Drug checking services allow individuals to have the potency and content of their drugs tested before use, and to receive information regarding what these drugs contain. Drug checking also contributes to public health surveillance of drug markets in local areas: when particularly dangerous samples are identified the service can issue tailored public health alerts.
What might drug checking look like in Scotland?
The video below explores the findings of the realist review carried out by the Scottish Drug Checking Project research team to explore what drug checking might look like in a Scottish social, cultural, policy and legal context.
Where can I get more information about drug checking?
You can read the short briefing papers and academic journal articles from the study so far:
- Scottish Drug Checking Project summary – summary and key findings
- Briefing – key research findings from the interviews (all cities)
- Briefing – key research findings from the interviews (Aberdeen)
- Briefing – key research findings from the interviews (Dundee)
- Briefing – key research findings from the interviews (Glasgow)
- Briefing – key research findings from the interviews (Police)
- Key Briefing – A Realist Review of How Community-Based Drug Checking Services Could Be Designed and Implemented to Promote Engagement of People Who Use Drugs
- Research Paper – Realist review of factors which impact the use of community-based drug checking services among people who use drugs
- Research Paper – Challenges for drug checking services in Scotland: a qualitative exploration of police perceptions
- Research paper – exploring potential models of service delivery for Scotland
You can read more about drug checking from organisations who deliver services across the UK and internationally:
Confidentiality was seen as a core aspect of the service needed to build trust with clients. A drug checking service would need to communicate clearly that it is confidential. Any boundaries to confidentiality would need to be explicitly stated.
Members of the Scottish drug checking project team are editors for a special issue on community-based drug checking in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. They are accepting papers on all aspects of community-based drug checking and the deadline for submissions is 30th June 2023. You can find out more about the special issues and published manuscripts here. Please email Hannah Carver if you have any questions.
Drug checking in the news
If you would like to learn more about the research study and the implementation of services in Scotland, please sign up to the Scottish Drug Checking Project mailing list. Please read the Privacy information notice.
For more information about the research, please email SACASR@stir.ac.uk