How can community drug checking function as a harm reduction intervention in response to the health and social harms resulting from the criminalization of substances?
A new article from Bruce Wallace, Thea van Roode, Flora Pagan, Dennis Hore and Bernie Pauly surrounding the Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project looks at the ways in which prospective service users view the role of community drug checking as a harm reduction intervention. Adopting a socioecological model, the authors illustrate potential roles for drug checking beyond an individual level intervention with a behavioural change mandate such as influence at the market, community and policy levels.
At an individual level, prospective service users saw drug checking as a way to support agency in personal substance use and harm reduction practices. Participants indicated that knowing the contents of a substance provided an opportunity for risk assessment, risk response, and improved health outcomes.
At the market level, drug checking can do more than issue alerts as it has the potential to improve consistency in the unregulated market by using services as a quality control measure for those who produce and distribute substances.
At a community level, drug checking can be an accepting and respectful place for people who use and sell drugs and holds the potential to shift stigmas associated with drugs and drug use in its community reports.
At the policy level, drug checking could have a role in safer supply initiatives and informing drug policy that better protects individuals who use and/or sell substances. Drug checking has the potential to demonstrate how criminalisation and prohibition impacts the drug supply and inform future policies.
The authors conclude that “drug checking must not be guided by nor evaluated on abstinence focused outcomes”. Find the open access article, titled The Potential Impacts of Community Drug Checking Within the Overdose Crisis: Qualitative Study Exploring the Perspective of Prospective Service Users, here: https://rdcu.be/cmGxd