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Reagent Testing Information

Testing Drugs

Any type of recreational drug use is likely to carry a degree of risk, both long-term and short-term. This is true for legal recreational drug use like drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco, but is heightened for illicit drug use. One reason for this, among others, is that illicit drugs are, by nature, unregulated.

It is important for anyone who uses drugs, and for those around them, to understand how these risks can be reduced by checking the content of illicit drugs.

This page explains everything you need to know about reagent testing:

Reagent Testing

In this module you will learn what reagent testing is (and what it is not), what is really in illicit drugs, and how and why to use reagent testing - including a detailed guide on the reagent testing process.

We will then look at some specific reagents, how they chemically interact with drugs and what a positive reaction can look like.

We then provide you with some observed real world implications and discuss the limitations of reagent testing - with some potential solutions to those limitations and some words of warning pertaining to the testing.

The Basics

For a concise overview of Reagent Testing, please click below for a condensed version of our slides. These include all of 'the basics' that you ought to be aware of before testing any substances.

About this module

People who are often around those who use illicit drugs are the first point of contact for people who use drugs when it comes to staying safe and eventually having the ability to stop using. It is vital that all of us, and especially people who use drugs and their support network, have an understanding of what can be done to reduce potential harms.

These slides are primarily for people who use drugs and for those around them. Illicit drugs have no formal regulation in place to ensure their safety, or even that the correct drug is being consumed. This can lead to fatal overdoses or unpleasant effects. While reagent tests cannot tell you the purity of a sample, they can give an indication of what is really in a drug.

Reagent Testing is now more important and easier to access than ever before. With the emergence of novel psychoactive substances, of which more than 880 are currently monitored by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the risks of unexpectedly taking a different drug than intended, and the range of associated harms, are higher than ever.

With the rising availability of the adulterants that could be in illicit drugs, and the ability by drug manufacturers to circumvent old tricks (such as by adding benzocaine and levamisole to impure cocaine in order to numb the gums and resemble a more pure product), reagent testing has become a necessity.

Reagent testing could prevent someone from accidentally consuming a drug that they did not intend to, and prevent the harms that could follow, by showing the tester that the drug they are considering taking is not what they expected it to be.

There are limitations to reagent testing, which must be understood for the process to be of maximum benefit, and it could be argued that, without this understanding, the tests could cause more harm than good.

These slides are free to use; the aim of Drug Science is to optimise dissemination of knowledge and implementation of harm reduction practices to the public, so if these slides are helpful to you please use them.

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