For a while, we believed consumption was the only way, apart from looking at particular physical features of the substance, to know how pure a drug actually is. Mostly because we didn’t have the time or money to actually sit down and check the purity of a substance, and more importantly it’s not technically legal, in most places, to possess these “Class A” substances. But that never stopped anyone from doing drugs; this has also caused enormous drug-related deaths because of accidental poisoning – impure substances that were supposed to make you feel better, but instead killed you.
The Conceptualisation of The Drug Testing Caravan
An increase in deaths due to accidental poisoning had been observed since records first started being maintained in 1993. 2014, with a total of 2250 people dying of accidental poisoning (from drug use), saw triple the number recorded in 1993 – this called for immediate action to be taken. What was the easiest way possible to put an end to this? Confiscating and criminalising drug use and possession didn’t seem to be working – people were doing drugs even if it killed them. In a very bold move that took place at a music festival, a caravan was set up to test drugs, for quality, for free! the initiative was not in vain, catering to a large crowd, more than three hundred people chose not to consume the drugs they had brought with them after getting them tested – because they were adulterated.
The initiative caught on – nightclubs in Preston had a similar set-up for people who wanted to test their drugs before taking them. The process remained within legal limits because the people testing the samples never came in contact with more than a tiny amount, and would destroy it afterwards, leaving the user in control of the decision to be made; the process also ensured complete anonymity. The police, unable to combat the current system, gave the new one the green light. It is a completely neutral system; while it does not encourage drug use, it does not discourage it as well. But the question of legal authorities giving this system the go ahead is also present. According to Professor Neil McKeganey, founder of the Centre for Substance Use Research at Glasgow University,
The police are advocating a view which one would not unfairly describe as facilitating drug use. By implication the green light has been given by the authorities to consumption. It’s hard to see how this isn’t an absolute breach of our current drugs laws.
While it is in a legal grey area, it is the only pragmatic way to address the current problem. With none of the prior responses working too well, given the predicament we are in, authorities are willing to go to such lengths to tackle the problem.
A Possible Solution That Should Be Adopted By Everyone?
Waiting for either legalisation or decriminalisation to happen all over the globe is something that is far from likely to happen, at least in the near future – not all of us can follow in Portugal’s footsteps, it might be asking for too much. But providing a safe and anonymous environment to ensure that a substance, even though illegal, doesn’t kill someone who is either brave or stupid enough to do something that is bad for them is a possible start.
Not a start towards possible legalisation, but one that lets people know what they are putting into their systems.