A lot of people probably won’t agree with me, but I find myself rejoicing in a new plan to help drug users.
The reasons I’m in favour of drug-testing clinics is that they’re likely to be very helpful, they’re non-judgmental and they could save lives.
Without fear of arrest or prosecution at the first checking clinic licensed by the Home Office, drug users have the chance to have illicit substances tested before taking them.
The initiative could be introduced across the country if it is shown to save lives. Charity Addaction is running the service in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.
Anyone over the age of 18 can take drugs to the clinic and it will take about 10 minutes to test the content.
During this time, the user will complete a questionnaire to allow drug advice to be personally tailored in order to limit harm.
Roz Gittins, director of pharmacy at Addaction, said: “This is about saving lives. We know people take drugs. We don’t have to condone it but nor should we judge people or bury our heads in the sand.
“It’s our job to do whatever we can to help people make informed choices about the risks they’re taking. Checking the content of drugs is a sensible and progressive way to do that. If people know what’s in something, they can be better informed about the potential harm of taking it.”
I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a collaborative effort in Weston-super-Mare with the local police agreeing people won’t be stopped and searched on their way in or out of the buildings.
It has the bonus that those who have had substances tested may decide not to take them – or take less.
Addaction said Weston-super-Mare had been chosen as the pioneering site because it was relatively small. A string of drug-related arrests have taken place recently through joined-up working between the council, police and the whole community.
Concerns have been growing over addiction to opioid drugs, such as fentanyl; the use of spice, a synthetic drug similar to cannabis; and Xanax, bought by teenagers on the dark web.
Fentanyl has been linked to a number of deaths and some pupils have collapsed at school after taking Xanax.
The pilot is being run in partnership with Hertfordshire University and The Loop, which is providing the testing equipment. This is a much-needed intelligent approach to drug use.