Drug Checking: Principles of Practice. A model for Victoria 

Harm Reduction Victoria and the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association are pleased to publish the paper Drug Checking: Principles of Practice. A Model for Victoria.

This paper has been written by Professor Kate Seear in consultation with sector experts who have experience in running drug checking services along with people who are likely to use such a service.

The paper presents a preferred model for drug checking in Victoria, providing principles for equitable access, an approach to reducing harms for those intending to use drugs, and the establishment of a real time public alert system that can keep our community safe.

It provides the Victorian Government with expert advice on a best practice model, with budgetary considerations and guiding principles to inform how such a service should operate.

Whilst drug checking is often associated with festivals and events where substances may be consumed, it has broader application, as identified by the Coroners Court with most fatalities related to dangerous substances occurring outside of a festival setting. Drug checking has now been recommended in seven Victorian coronial findings.

The paper proposes a fixed site drug checking service in Melbourne where people can attend to have a sample examined, with mobile vans in place to outreach to regional and rural communities.  The service would be part of a wider public early warning system, which would allow health authorities to communicate in real time should the presence of hazardous additive substances be identified

Drug checking services never recommend that a substance is completely safe to use. They provide individuals with a handbrake to reconsider consumption where otherwise they already intend to use a drug. International evidence shows that up to 86% of people will discard a substance should they be informed that it is adulterated.

A drug checking service for Victoria is smart public health policy. It will reduce the use of risky drugs and provide an early warning system for the State to communicate about hazardous addictive substances, in turn reducing demand on our overburdened health system.

Importantly it is an essential frontline defence against the threat of potent synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and nitazenes, which continue to bear catastrophic consequences overseas.

Harm Reduction Victoria and the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association are committed to working with the Victorian Government to reduce the harms of drug use in our community through evidence informed, health led solutions.

See the report