We are offering a free and confidential drug checking program at harm reduction agencies in Victoria, providing access to several drug checking instruments. As the project progresses, we hope to start offering services in additional locations on Vancouver Island. Service users will have the opportunity to check their drugs, discuss results with project staff, and access information and supplies for safer drug use. Our team uses multiple drug checking instruments to determine a sample’s main active ingredients, fillers or cutting agents, any unexpected drugs, and the presence of fentanyl. We are also offering harm reduction supplies and resources.
|Mon||SOLID||1139 Yates St.||12:00 - 4:00 PM|
|Tue||AIDS Vancouver Island||713 Johnson St.||3:00 - 7:00 PM|
|Wed||AIDS Vancouver Island||713 Johnson St.||3:00 - 7:00 PM|
|Thu||SOLID||1139 Yates St.||12:00 - 4:00 PM|
|TBA||Lantern Services||820 Cormorant St.||TBA|
Drug checking can help provide more information about what’s in a substance. But we can never tell if a substance is “safe” or “unsafe” to use, even after the check.
This is a pilot project and the technology has limitations.
Access to the service is free, voluntary and confidential. We need a small sample (which we only use after we get your permission). You get most of this back, except for about a grain of rice). Testing takes about 20 minutes.
When you come in, we’ll go over the limitations of drug checking. We’ll ask you a few questions about the substance you brought in so we can provide you with better results and information, and as part of our research – you can skip any of the questions. Because the service is part of a research project, we’ll go over how and why we would use the information you share, so you can make an informed decision about how you want to participate.
Next, we’ll ask for a small sample and start to run our tests. You’ll get most of it back, except for about a grain of rice. Testing takes about 20 minutes. While you’re waiting for results, you can participate in an optional survey that asks about you, the substances you brought, and your thoughts on drug checking.
After we’ve had a chance to run tests and interpret results, we’ll go over results together, such as: main active ingredient(s); contaminants (such as unexpected drugs); inert cutting agents; approximate amounts of the active compared to other ingredients; the presence of fentanyl or fentanyl analogies. We also offer harm reduction supplies and information, if needed.
These charts provide a snapshot of our drug checking results to date from two Victoria sites. A single sample can, and often does, contain multiple active ingredients. The percentages reflect the fraction of the total samples that were identified to contain that ingredient and do not indicate concentration. Interpretations are cautioned due to the limited detail provided.
Through the evaluation and research of this pilot project, we seek to evaluate and compare the utility of several instruments and technologies in terms of cost, efficiency, and portability, as well as conduct surveys and interviews with service users to explore the utility of drug checking services and what works for whom, in what settings.
Service users will have the option to participate in surveys and interviews concerning their views on drug checking. Based on evidence from the pilot and evaluation we hope to develop a framework for further implementation, integration and scale-up of drug checking, linking harm reduction, health equity and social justice to the provision of drug checking.
To meet our goals, we’re offering a drug checking service at a few sites in Victoria while measuring its impacts through surveys and interviews with service users, while testing different drug checking instruments by effectiveness, acceptability, efficiency, accessibility, and appropriateness. We’re also building an online database to link the chemical information each instrument detects with analytical and visualization tools to report on and project trends, reporting updates via our project website, while offering instrument data for analysis by citizen scientists.
Surveys and interviews aim to learn more about developing services across social location, with attention to processes and impacts of current drug policy and systemic oppression, asking questions about whether existing services meet user expectations, harm reduction practices in the overdose crisis, and how services should be offered.
Project staff work from diverse backgrounds including social work, chemistry and computer science, housed at the University of Victoria and hosted at services across Victoria. Together with project partners (including people who use drugs, local harm reduction services, the health authority, the provincial government, and instrument developers), over the next few years the project will develop services beyond Victoria, with suburban and rural communities throughout Vancouver Island; develop strategies to more permanently integrate drug checking into harm reduction services; and collaborate with drug checking projects across Canada to develop best practices.
Funded by grants from Health Canada and the Vancouver Foundation, project partners include the B.C. MInistry of Mental Health and Addictions, Island Health, harm reduction services (STS Pharmacy, AVI, SOLID Outreach Services), industry (Perkin Elmer, Cobalt, ProSpect Scientific, IBM). Ethical review for this project was provided by the Health Research Ethics Board at Island Health (HREB).
IR Absorption spectroscopy measures how much infrared radiation is absorbed at different wavelengths. ATR-FTIR spectroscopy works for a wide variety of compounds, has a number of available libraries, requires minimal sample prep, and produces results in a few minutes
Raman spectroscopy shines a laser on a sample and collects the scattered light which provides a chemical fingerprint of molecular vibrations. Raman spectroscopy is non-contact, non-destructive, requires minimal sample prep, and can produce results in a few minutes. Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) can detect substances at low concentrations
Components of a sample are separated using Gas Chromatography. These components are identified using Mass Spectrometry (currently via library searching). Detects chemicals at trace concentrations, semi-quantitative, and considered a gold standard test.
These strip tests work similarly to pregnancy tests and are capable of detecting specific compounds at low concentrations (10-200 nanograms per millilitre). They have been shown to provide a large degree of sensitivity and specificity when testing for fentanyl and its close analogues in street drugs
We’re a team of chemists, social workers, computer scientists, pharmacists, and people who use drugs, partnering to provide and evaluate drug checking services in Victoria, British Columbia. The principal investigators are from the Department of Chemistry and the School of Social Work at the University of Victoria.