Free drug testing service to be set up by The Loop in Bristol in UK first

Credit: PA

A free and confidential drug testing service will begin in Bristol later this month in a bid to cut drug-related deaths.

The new service, which will be run by The Loop, is due to start in St Paul's on May 28.

Bristol is believed to be the first UK city to offer a regular testing service.

Where and how will the drug testing service operate in Bristol?

The Loop's centre will operate once a month at the Bristol Drug Project, in Brunswick Square.

It will see users can drop off drugs to be tested, with results being returned in about an hour. No drugs will be returned to service users after testing.

People will also receive a healthcare consultation at the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, in Jamaica Street.

Not all drugs will be tested - such as cannabis and mushrooms - but the lab will test other drugs for purity, toxins and unexpected substances.

Previous testing pilots, including at music festivals such as Love Saves The Day in Bristol, have shown to reduce both drug use and drug-related medical incidents.

There will be 15 testing sessions over the next year, costing Bristol City Council £40,000.

Professor Fiona Measham, director of the Loop, said: “As the first and only dedicated drug-checking service provider in the UK, the Loop has been working for nearly a decade to establish regular drug-checking services direct to the public.

"We are extremely grateful to the Home Office for issuing the licence to be able to offer this vital service.”

It is thought the drugs testing centre could pave the way for drug consumption rooms, where users can inject drugs under supervision.

The council discussed the rooms as a way to tackle drug-related deaths but the Home Office refused to grant the council a licence.

Cabinet member for public health Ellie King said: “We didn’t get a good response last time, but it’s certainly a conversation we can revisit. Now that we’ve got this [a license for the testing service] going, it feels like there’s a new avenue for that to be explored again.”

The cabinet approved the new testing service on Tuesday 10 May, as one council boss revealed he had lost two friends to drug-related deaths, calling the new service “hugely important”.

Last summer saw a spate of drug-related deaths and hospital admissions in Bristol, believed to be related to super-strength pills.

Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney said: “I’ve lost a couple of friends to drug-related deaths, some school friends, so I know first-hand that it’s not just the pain that it causes the immediate family, but also the whole community.

"So I think it’s great to see that we’re leading on this. It’s a hugely important piece of work.”

During the cabinet meeting, Cllr King said: “Bristol has a higher than average number of drug-related deaths, both regionally and nationally.

"And so as the first city in the UK to offer this potentially life-saving service, we’re tackling this problem head on."

She added: “This is not about condoning drug use, this is about reducing harm and risks in environments where we know drugs are being used. This is about keeping people safe.”

Credit: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter