Despite being almost unknown to institutions and professionals, a growing number of new synthetic drugs (from 41 in 2010 to 101 in 2014 and 66 in 2016 – EMCDDA) is produced for the illegal market and they are widely available. For some people, the use of NPS is a choice, but not for everyone: many NPS employ groups of chemicals giving effects similar to those of controlled substances, but it is very difficult to recognise NPS without a screening instrument that can analyse the contents of a drug.
Drug checking is an integrated service that lets drug users to have their synthetic drugs analysed and receive counselling (Ventura et al., 2011); in nightlife contexts it has been shown to be useful at different levels: early detection of NPS, harm and risk reduction for drug users, knowledge improvement for service providers and policy makers (Hungerbuehler et al. 2011); however in most EU countries drug checking is not implemented. This happens because of different laws but also because of some prejudicial concerns: organizers of musical events are afraid that allowing drug checking could mean admitting the fact that those contexts are connected with drug use while for some policy makers drug checking supposedly increases drug use (Hungerbuehler et al. 2011). As research has shown, a drug checking service can change consumption behaviours of drug users, especially when an unexpected substance is detected in the sample (Martins et al.2017).
The aim of this report is to contribute to the development of drug checking services in those (European) countries where the service is not carried out, by giving advice and examples based on this practice.