Drug checking faqs

Experts and workers across public health, criminal justice and the electronic music industries have lent their support to proposals for a drug-checking service in Australia, but significant resistance from major political parties of both persuasions has impeded progress. The debate has been an emotive and heated one. To help you find your way through the madness, here's a no-bullshit FAQ on the basics of drug-checking.pills.jpg

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Drug checking brief

Unharm is campaigning for drug checking services in Australia, as part of a holistic approach to making drug use safer. This brief provides answers to key questions about drug checking services, like ... what are drug-checking services? Why check drugs? What do drug checking services look like around the world? What do they do? How would a service sit within the existing policy context in Australia? What are the legal implications of a service? And what related services and programs are currently operating in Australia?


Download a pdf version of the drug checking brief here



  • Drug checking is a successor term for ‘pill testing’. The term ‘drug checking’ is more correct because only some of the drugs checked are in pill form but it is not as widely understood as ‘pill testing’ which can therefore be more useful in describing the service.
  • Drug checking makes the contents of drugs transparent to consumers. Service staff conduct chemical analysis of samples brought by consumers, then interpret and provide the results with information about the risks of consuming the substances identified in the sample.
  • Services usually conduct brief interventions to identify and support people away from problematic consumption patterns where necessary.
  • Drug checking services currently operate in about a dozen countries around the world and at present only in one emergency setting in Australia.
  • Drug checking can be considered a traditional regulatory intervention in markets to control the harms that suppliers would otherwise cause to consumers. Drug checking also
    • enables better risk management by consumers,
    • creates an opportunity to support people away from problematic consumption patterns, and
    • provides timely and valid data about illicit drug markets and products than can be used to improve clinical care and law enforcement.
    • Drug checking services are timely due to the persistence of illicit markets, the limitations of current regulatory approaches, and the increased risks from the proliferation of high potency and new psychoactive substances.


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Drug checking talking points

Don't underestimate the importance of talking to people about pill testing, and why we need it right now. Those conversations are essential. Here are ten talking points to throw down:


Photo: checkit!, Vienna.

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Drug checking technology: gold beats bronze

You’ve probably heard about the kits you can use at home to check the contents of black-market drugs. You might wonder what the fuss is about drug checking is when you can already do it yourself.


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The internet's best videos about the ins and outs of drug checking


Consumer drug checking services conduct testing to determine the content and purity of black-market substances.

In many countries around the world, drug checking services operate at events, in ‘high-street’ settings and via mail-in.

Melbourne Unharm supporter Brendan Curran has helped compile the internet's best videos about the ins and outs of drug checking.

Check them out!

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