Aiming to cut down on drug-related deaths, British nightclubs—with support from police—will offer walk-in booths with free drug tests to make sure your cocaine or MDMA is not "adulterated or highly potent." The move comes at a time when the United Kingdom is dealing with record-highs of drug-related deaths.
Next year, according to The Sunday Times, Preston, a city in Lancashire, is expected to offer England's first public walk-up drug-checking service, which would allow people to check the quality of their illegal drugs for safety without the risk of being arrested. The service will operate in a caravan outside of the clubs in the city center on Friday and Saturday nights.
To make sure it's legal, volunteers in charge of the service will not handle the drugs directly, and any tested samples will be destroyed, according to the Independent. Users, who can remain anonymous, won't be targeted by law enforcement.
The operation will be run by the Loop, a non-profit company led by Durham University professor of criminology Fiona Measham. "It's a very new service and some people might see it as quite radical, but it's focusing on harm reduction," Measham explained.
Of course, the plan has its critics. Professor Neil McKeganey, who founded the Centre for Substance Use Research at Glasgow University, argued, "The police are advocating a view which one would not unfairly describe as facilitating drug use." He added, "By implication the green light has been given by the authorities to consumption. It's hard to see how this isn't an absolute breach of our current drugs laws."
However, others describe the plan as a reasonable approach to the country's drug problems, especially after the ecstasy-related deaths of 57 people in England and Wales last year, according to the Daily Mail. Measham argued, "It's a pragmatic response to the fact that we have an illegal market and criminal organizations sell a whole range of rubbish to people, some of which is risky, some of which is deadly."
The National Police Chief's Council has not fully endorsed the plan for national implementation, but police are reportedly "most supportive" of the plan. "Some form of testing may be a really useful and practical way forward," said spokesperson Simon Bray.
The approach has been used at music festivals and in other countries with notable success. Evidence from this specific plan will be gathered and "used to assess whether it can reduce drug-related harm," Measham said.