Street drugs to be tested for purity, harmful additives

Samantha Lock |

A testing program for street drugs in Sydney’s inner city will provide detailed analysis to users.
A testing program for street drugs in Sydney’s inner city will provide detailed analysis to users.

The first drug-checking program of its kind in NSW is set to begin with a pilot launching in Sydney’s inner city.

The project will run on one day each week for four months at the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross, with drug samples taken from 100 volunteers and analysed to show their purity and mix of substances.

The project will allow researchers to study the impact of providing detailed drug analysis information while improving the monitoring of the street drug marketplace, the centre’s medical director Marianne Jauncey said.

“Overseas, especially in North America, we have seen what happens when new and highly dangerous substances infiltrate illicit drug markets, and we want to do whatever we can to avoid this happening here,” she said in a statement on Monday.

Drug markets in NSW have become increasingly unpredictable since the COVID-19 pandemic with the number of drug alerts at an all-time high, according to Dr Jauncey.

Drug-checking research participant Megan said the testing process is simple and quick.

“Throughout the entire 20 years of my substance use history, in all the countless times I have self-administered drugs – this was the first time ever that I actually knew for certain what I was going to inject into my body,” she said.

No legislation or government approval was required for the research program to commence, though it has received Human Research Ethics Committee approval from both the University of NSW and the Western Sydney Local Health District.

The program launch follows increasing calls for standardised pill-testing programs across Australia, particularly at festivals.

The ACT became the first jurisdiction in Australia to offer pill testing with Queensland announcing in March it would commit nearly $1 million in funding over two years for pill testing services.

Victorian coroners have also thrown their weight behind calls for a drug testing trial in the state, following the deaths of two men they believe unknowingly took synthetic substances.

NSW has so far resisted rolling out a drug testing regime, but the measure is expected to be considered at a state drug summit this year.