William Eichler 09 June 2017

Testing facilities in city centres could reduce drug-related deaths, health experts say

Testing facilities in city centres could reduce drug-related deaths, health experts say  image

Festivals and city centres should provide testing facilities where drug users can test ‘substances of concern’ to establish their content and strength, say health experts.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said the move could help reduce the amount of potentially harmful substances circulating at festivals and nightclubs where drugs are frequently used.

The call comes in response to an increase in recent years of deaths related to the use of recreational ‘club drugs’, with ecstasy deaths in England and Wales up almost six-fold from 10 in 2010 to 57 in 2015.

The rise is thought to have been largely caused by a corresponding increase in the average strength of ecstasy pills.

Drug safety testing was piloted at two festivals last summer with the support of local police and public health. The initial results suggest almost one in five users (18%) opted to dispose of their drugs once aware of the true content.

‘The rise in drug-related deaths at music festivals and night clubs is a growing problem for policy makers, health authorities and events companies alike,’ said Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of RSPH

‘While the use of stimulant ‘club drugs’ such as ecstasy can never be safe, and RSPH supports ongoing efforts to prevent them entering entertainment venues, we accept that a certain level of use remains inevitable in such settings.

‘We therefore believe that a pragmatic, harm reduction response is necessary.’

‘The pilots carried out by The Loop last summer suggest providing drug safety testing facilities to festival-goers and night clubbers is a promising part of the equation in preventing these deaths – both by exposing and reducing the circulation of super strength or adulterated pills, and by providing an opportunity to impart practical harm reduction advice to an audience who would not normally engage with drug services,’ she continued.

‘We urge events companies to make these facilities a standard part of the UK festival and clubbing landscape, and we urge both local and national police and public health authorities to provide the support that will enable this.’

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The power of local systems to save lives

Councils and their partners could do even more to contain the spread of COVID-19 if properly funded to undertake a robust localised system of testing, tracking and tracing, argues Professor Donna Hall.
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