Colorimetric reagent kits can provide information about the compounds present in drug samples. This study aimed to identify patterns and correlates of colorimetric reagent kit use, as well as behavioural outcomes of testing, amongst people who use illegal stimulants in a context that lacks permanent government-sanctioned drug checking services.
Australians residing in capital cities who reported regularly using ecstasy/MDMA and/or other illegal stimulants ≥monthly in the past six months were recruited via social media and word-of-mouth from April-July 2019 (N = 792). Participants were asked about testing the contents and/or purity of illegal drugs, and features of last colorimetric reagent kit use. Logistic regression identified correlates of last using a kit (referent: no use of drug checking technology to test drug contents/purity in the past year).
Over one-third (36%) reported testing drug contents and/or purity; of this group, 86% had last used a colorimetric reagent kit. On the last occasion, 52% reported someone else had conducted testing; 58% said testing occurred <24 h before planned drug use; and 24% reported testing for quantity of a substance. Correlates of drug checking comprised: being younger, male, past six-month use of new psychoactive substances, accessing community-based health services for alcohol or other drug reasons, selling drugs for cash profit, obtaining information from peers who had tried the drug, and searching online for reports of the drug by stamp/appearance. The majority (84%) tested a substance they had been sold and/or given as MDMA; of these, 87% detected MDMA. Of those who expected and detected MDMA, 29% and 11% reported results to their peers and dealer, respectively.
People who use ecstasy/MDMA and/or other illegal stimulants seek out objective information about substance contents. In countries that lack permanent government-sanctioned drug checking services, it is important to acknowledge that people already engage in drug checking but with suboptimal technologies and without tailored specialist advice and education.
- Drug checking
- Pill testing
- Harm reduction
- Drug policy