On March, 23rd 2017 a workshop focused on drug checking took place in Florence. Health and social professionals and some Italian toxicological laboratories were involved in the venue. The aim of the workshop was to create a setting in which drug service providers , both from public and private organizations, could meet with toxicological laboratories and discuss how to carry out other drug checking experimentations beside the BAONPS project.
About 60 people attended the workshop. The main findings from the integrated service of drug checking on the Italian field were presented. In the first year of activity within the BAONPS project, more than 300 samples were analysed and 668 group or individual counselling were performed. Most of the tested samples turned out to be MDMA and ketamine but many NPS were detected too. Data show that 1/3 of the drug users were about to take a different substance from the one expected , but the positive fact is that half of the people (54%) that discovered the drug they had was “something else” (cutting agent, NPS and prescription drugs), decided to not use it. It is worth noticing that drug checking proved to be a preventive tool beside an harm reduction
A relevant number of public drug-service providers and some health care institutions attended the workshop. Roberta Pacifici from Istituto Superiore di Sanità (National Institute for Health) was interested in the BAONPS project and the service that carries out; she proposed to deeply discuss the possibility to extent the drug checking service experimentation at national level, after the end of the BAONPS project.
The workshop was an occasion to discuss doubts around drug checking and compare different opinions. The pragmatic point of view that stands behind harm reduction and drug checking was highlighted and explained: during outreach interventions in recreational drug use contexts, it is nearly impossible to prevent drug use but it is still possible to protect people’s health and improve the capacity of drug users to protect themselves from harms by using risk reduction and empowerment strategies.
At the end of the workshop, the lawyer Elia De Caro exposed his legal opinion about the drug-checking service: if drug checking is performed in association with counselling and especially the latter is performed by professional workers, drug checking can be considered as a service that promotes health among recreational drug users.
At the end of the workshop all the organizations involved agreed that the next step is to get in touch with national and local institutions, to connect with them through data exchange and formal agreement,thus to promote drug-checking services at local level.