Overview of Toronto’s Drug Checking Service
People who use drugs in Toronto have long advocated for access to drug checking in an effort to reduce the harms associated with using drugs from the unregulated supply. In 2017, Health Canada responded, funding multiple drug checking services across the country with the primary goal of preventing overdose. This included funding a drug checking pilot in Toronto.
Toronto’s drug checking service launched in October 2019 and offers free and anonymous drug checking using mass spectrometry technologies (gas- and liquid-chromatography). These lab-based technologies offer detailed information about which drugs are found in each sample, along with some information about how much of each drug is present. Coordinated by the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation, this drug checking service provides people who use drugs with timely and comprehensive information on the composition of their drugs, helping them to make more informed decisions. This drug checking service also helps to uncover the contents of Toronto’s unregulated drug supply.
Samples are collected at three frontline harm reduction agencies in Toronto, including Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (Queen West site), South Riverdale Community Health Centre, and The Works at Toronto Public Health, where supervised consumption services are offered. However, this drug checking service is available to everyone and is not limited to clients of supervised consumption services.
Accepted samples include substances (a small amount of powder, a crushed bit of a pill, blotter, or a small amount of liquid) and post-use paraphernalia (a used cooker or filter, or leftover liquid from a syringe). Samples are transported to a nearby laboratory at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health or St. Michael’s Hospital where they are analyzed. Results are available within the next business day or two and are communicated to clients by harm reduction staff in person or by phone. Along with these results, clients receive tailored harm reduction supports, guidance, and referral to services (e.g., supervised consumption, naloxone training, primary health care, etc.).
Every two weeks, results from samples checked are combined and disseminated with the goal of communicating information about the composition of Toronto’s unregulated drug supply. To receive these reports directly, sign up by emailing [email protected].
This drug checking service is being scientifically evaluated to understand its impacts on the health and well-being of people who use drugs in Toronto. To learn more about the methods and aims of the evaluation, read the study protocol and rationale.
Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation [https://cdpe.org/oct2019-mar2020-drug-checking-services-results/]
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