Almost a quarter of street drugs are not what users think they are, some being far more powerful and dangerous than expected, according to findings from the UK’s first community-based drug-checking service.
The testing, carried out in Bristol and Durham, involved more than 170 substances of concern being submitted and analyzed by a team of chemists in a pop-up lab, with follow-up healthcare consultations delivered to more than 200 users.
Nearly one in four of the drugs sold (24%) were not what they purported to be, according to the results, published this week in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Drugs sold as MDMA or ecstasy turned out to be n-ethylpentylone, which has been linked to overdose deaths, while a substance purporting to be ketamine was found to be a new psychoactive substance with the chemical name 2-FDCK, a synthetic drug that is about one-and-a-half times more powerful and whose effects lasts for up to three times as long as ketamine.
Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate – sent direct to you. A small number of submitted samples were associated with “problem drug-use”, including heroin containing paracetamol and caffeine, and a synthetic version of cannabis.
“The core problem is supply and demand,” said Prof Fiona Measham, chair in criminology at the University of Liverpool, and director of harm reduction charity The Loop.