What is "drug checking"?
Drug checking is a provincial pilot project in partnership with the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU), harm reduction organizations and health authorities.
Drug checking is an integrated harm reduction service that empowers people with the ability to make informed decisions about the substances they intend to use.
Who is it for?
Drug checking is for anyone and everyone who uses or plans to use substances purchased or received from illicit or unregulated sources or markets.
Regardless of whether the substance was sold or shared, or whether the use of a substance is daily or recreational, drug checking significantly reduces risks associated with consuming unknown substances.
Drug checking is strongly recommended for anyone who consumes any illicit or unregulated substance(s), but especially folks whose substance use is recreational and/or occasional. Anyone with lower physical tolerance for fentanyl is at greater risk of overdose when consuming substances from the unregulated market.
What does it do?
Drug Checking provides life-saving information for people who use drugs and can test a range of substances including opioids, stimulants and other psychoactive drugs such as MDMA and
benzodiazepines. Because drug checking services provide an immediate and accurate chemical analysis of any sample's contents, health authorities and the public are also provided timely, region-specific information about drug supply contents.
*NOTE: drug checking remains illegal in some American states, as this short video mentions. However, drug checking is 100% legal and funded by government in many communities across Canada, including in qathet. qCAT's drug checking services are part of an ongoing pilot program funded and supported by Health Canada.
How is it done?
qathet Drug Checking uses two technologies on site: Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR) and Immunoassey Test Strips.
Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy works by shining infrared light at a sample and measuring how that light is absorbed. Drugs and cutting agents have unique absorption patterns that are identifiable by a trained technician. FTIR spectroscopy identifies any substance(s) that make up 5% or more of any given sample, detecting any major buffs, cuts, adulterants and active substance(s) present.
Immunoassay Test Strips: Fentanyl and Benzodiazepine test strips are used to detect the presence of fentanyl, some fentanyl analogues, benzodiazepines and some benzodiazepine analogues. These strips are very sensitive but are limited. They can detect specific actives or analogues present in a sample, but cannot measure the amounts of each.
We are also able to send samples to confirmatory or secondary testing sites in Vancouver (through Drug Analysis Service [DAS]) and in Victoria (through Substance Drug Checking Project).
DAS uses Quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance (qNMR), gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry (GS/MS) and liquid chromatography/ mass spectrometry (LC/MS). Confirmatory testing with DAS is based on an agreement with the BCCSU Drug Checking Project.
Substance Drug Checking Project Confirmatory is a BC Pilot Project using Paper Spray Mass Spectrometry (PSMS). PSMS can measure more accurately what substances are present and make up as little as 0.01% of a sample. As with FTIR’s, PSMS does not test for purity and therefore cannot confirm if a sample is safe to take.