New police-backed service lets festival goers check what their drugs have been cut with

Some users left their substances behind when they discovered that they had been mis-sold or bought duds

Christopher Hooton
Monday 25 July 2016 14:37
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Only the most naive of drug users will be unaware that what they’re taking is far from pure, but (thanks in part to their illegality), it’s incredibly difficult to ascertain exactly what your psychoactive substance of choice has been cut with.

Very often it is something benign like powdered milk that will simply leave you short changed, but there has been a worrying spate of deaths and hospitalisations at music festivals across the world recently because of more dangerous chemicals being used to pad out baggies.

To combat this, a charity called The Loop has begun conducting free forensic testing of people’s drugs at UK festivals and nightclubs and offering advice on safe dosages.

It had its biggest drive yet over the weekend, setting up at Cambridgeshire festival Secret Garden Party, the service being backed by the police and council in the name of safer drug use.

Festival founder Freddie Fellowes told the Guardian he was “thrilled” to be able to offer the service, saying: “Harm reduction and welfare is a vital part of hosting any event and it’s an area that for too long has seen little development or advancement.”

Charities like The Loop have previously only been able to test drugs seized by police or dropped in amnesty bins, so this should yield better data.

Around 200 people made use of the service with 80 samples of concern being tested - the team finding ketamine cut with anti-malaria tablets and ammonium sulphate sold as MDMA.

“Around a quarter of people who brought in their drugs then asked us to dispose of them when they discovered that they had been mis-sold or were duds,” one organiser noted. “We were taking dangerous substances out of circulation.”

Fiona Measham, co-founder of The Loop, described the Secret Garden Party tests as “a big step forward.”

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“For the first time we’ve been able to offer the testing service to individual users as part of a tailored advice and information package provided by a team of experienced drugs workers,” she said.

“This can help people make informed choices, raising awareness of particularly dangerous substances in circulation and reducing the chance of drug-related problems occurring.”

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