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Drug related deaths in the UK are the highest since records began. More people are taking novel substances in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, they are using in riskier ways and with greater fatalities. Other countries in Europe have responded to this public health issue by developing drug checking services which allows people who take drugs to find out what is really inside them. This means people can make informed decisions about the substances they ingest.
I am raising £20,000 to fund PhD research in to the harm reduction strategy "drug checking". I intend to explore the evidence base for drug checking, focusing on harm reduction interventions in nightlife settings such as festivals and nightclubs.
I am a harm reduction enthusiast working in welfare, training, mental health and youth work.
I have worked across Europe delivering harm reduction interventions at festivals and events. I have worked along drug checking services; I have studied the way messages about the dangers of drugs are communicated; I have read too many headlines about lives lost from recreational drug use. I have watched as the way things currently are set up has led to ever more headlines about people dying.
Drug related deaths in the UK are the highest on record and the reported prevalence of New Psychoactive Substances across Europe is increasing rapidly.
The illicit drug market means that many of the substances people use recreationally, particularly in nightlife settings, are unregulated. People are dying because of adulterated substances or high strength drugs. There is likely an untold impact to mental health through the ingestion of misrepresented drugs which result in unexpected or unintended effects.
If tabs of acid are being sold as the riskier and harder to dose NBOMe substances ; if ecstasy tablets contain the stronger substance PMMA rather than MDMA then people's lives are at risk.
Drug checking involves the chemical analysis of substances and allows people to make informed decisions about what they put into their body. There is a 30 year history of drug checking across Europe through services offered by organisations such as Energy Control , Check-in and the national testing service DIMs in the Netherlands. These groups work closely with festivals and events where recreational drug use is common.
Drug warnings can quickly be circulated on site at festivals, through social media and can have a global reach. Testing at festival and events can also help first aid responses to medical emergencies. The first front of house testing took place in the UK on the summer of 2016
I want to explore drug checking as a harm reduction strategy in Scotland and the RUK and I need your support to do this. I will focus on drug checking harm reduction interventions in nightlife settings which is an area I have explored through work and volunteering roles .
Policy decisions must be evidence based. It is important to make the right choices rather than those which feel right or which have the loudest voices attached. a PhD study into drug checking will generate recommendations for a potential Scottish policy context.
Decisions need to be made and action taken. This research is urgent and I hope to begin it in October this year.
Follow me on twitter @kirapascalle
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