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!
You don’t know what you just bought
What’s In My Baggie
In this 2014 documentary “What’s In My Baggie” five friends travel across the US to music festivals to spread the word about drug misrepresentation by using reagent testing kits to identify the real substances that people have bought as “molly”.
MDMA pills & powders – all that glistens is not gold 2013
In this video produced by Global Drugs Survey in 2013, UK chemist John Ramsey talks about the evolution of ‘ecstasy’ products, breaking down common misconceptions about contents, crystals, colour and pill size. The film highlights the risks that arise when people don’t have access to information about dosage, or any method of distinguishing MDMA from other substances.
Home testing kits and the much better alternative
Global Drug Survey – Ecstasy Pill testing – the basics
Global Drug Survey produced this handy video in 2013, explaining the basics of ecstasy pill testing using a colourmetric reagent kit. In conversation format, the video explains how colourmetric reagent testing works and some of the limitations of this method. It also answers common questions about pill testing.
DanceSafe –Ecstasy / Molly /MDMA Drug Checking Demo
Justin Talbot from DanceSafe demonstrates a standard drug test using a colourmetric reagent kit, and explains how the test can identify the presence of MDMA, or an alternative or unknown substance.
Shambhala Festival Tests Drugs For Safety
This report from CBC News (Canada) from 2015 looks at how colourmetric reagent testing is used at Shambhala as part of a harm reduction service for patrons of the event. The reporter talks to some of them about why they use the service, to the festival promoter about why he supports it, and to one of the volunteers about how drug checking is combined with overdose awareness and other harm reduction services.
Home pill testing doesn’t show up PMA in a pill
The use of reagent testing has had an important role to play in giving people a better understanding of what is in their pills, yet often falls short of providing us with the full picture. In this 2013 video Global Drug Survey examine the limitations of pill testing using reagents, especially when it comes to identifying multiple substances within mixed pills, and the difference between MDMA and PMA.
How to tell exactly what’s in a pill – GCMS Testing
We are currently witnessing a rapid proliferation of new psychoactive substances, only increasing the need to be able to identify the true contents of drugs sold in illegal markets. In this video produced by Global Drug Survey, a Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) test is used to understand the contents of a pill in much greater detail than is possible from a simple colourmetric reagent test. This information can then be used to more effectively track new substances as they emerge into markets, and provide a warning system for consumers.
Drug checking in Australia – moving forwards
Deaths highlight ecstasy dangers but does zero-tolerance put lives at risk?
With people continuing to use drugs at music festivals, police sniffer dogs and a zero tolerance policy are doing more harm than good. This segment from ABC’s 7:30 Report in February 2015 explored an alternative approach that seeks to reduce the risks by providing drug checking services at festivals. In discussion with experts like Dr David Caldicott, the episode explains how drug checking has the potential to empower people to make informed decisions about whether or not to take drugs they’ve been sold.
The death of Gemma Thoms at a Perth music festival sparked a push for policies that better protect young people. In this segment from August 2015, 60 Minutes talked to Gemma’s mother about how a drug checking service might have saved Gemma’s life. The reporter visits drug checking services in Amsterdam and Vienna and talks to Australian expert Dr David Caldicott.
Johnboy Davidson on the past and future of drug checking in Australia
Pillreports.net founder Johnboy Davidson talks drug checking. Johnboy’s talk focused on why drug checking works to reduce the risk of drug-related harm. He starts out by clarifying an important point about why we've moved on from 'pill testing' to 'drug checking'. The first part of the talk discusses why he got involved in drug checking in the late 90s and established Enlighten Harm Reduction and pillreports.com. In the mid-2000s Enlighten attempted to introduce lab-grade testing technology. Intervention from the Federal government ended those plans. Now, new technology is opening up new possibilities for drug checking services, and the need is greater than ever.
David Caldicott at Entheogenesis 2014
If you want to take a deeper dive into drug checking, this film of David Caldicott’s presentation at Entheogenesis 2015 is engaging & rewarding. David gives a broad and detailed account that includes the principle of harm reduction, the history and current pressure on drug conventions, the emergence and proliferation of new psychoactive substances, and the market impacts of the internet. He describes WEDINOS, a drug checking system that he established in Wales to monitor drug-related presentations to emergency departments, and which now includes a mail-in service for consumers. He then talks about similar work he is now doing in Australia from his base at Calvary Hospital in the ACT, and his aspirations for more consumer-oriented drug checking services in Australia.