Proposals for UK’s first drug checking service in Bristol released

A proposed drug testing service could be introduced to Bristol in a first for the UK. 

Drug users would be able to attend 15 free and confidential services over a 12-month period and submit samples of their intended substance.

The drugs would then undergo a forensic analysis to check the content and purity before users get the results from a health professional. 

Testing has been proven to save lives and impact drug taking behaviours, as the UK has seen numerous drug deaths in recent years. 

The proposal is due to be discussed by Bristol City Council’s Cabinet and if approved services will be running from May 28. 

Bristol City Councillor, Ellie King, Cabinet Lead for Public Health, Communities, and Bristol One City said: ‘A cornerstone of our drug and alcohol strategy is our aim to monitor and consider new approaches to reducing the harm from illicit substance use. These proposals put forward an innovative approach to saving lives and reducing harm to our communities, and naturally align with our strategic aims.

stage light front of audience

‘It’s important that we don’t ignore the fact that drug use is happening and take a two-dimensional approach to this subject. Whilst this service doesn’t take anything away from work underway to support those with substance addictions, it will provide communities with access to factual, scientific, evidence-based information about drugs they may consume and that may be in circulation throughout the wider city. 

‘This, alongside the proposed one-on-one trained healthcare consultation, will empower people to make safer, informed decisions. Bristol is leading the way in this public health approach to keeping people safe around drugs and shows that, as a city, we put our people’s wellbeing at the forefront of decision making.’ 

Drug testing services have operated successfully in European countries, such as the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, for decades and pilot schemes in the UK have been deemed a success. 

In 2020, Bristol University gave students free drug testing kits, while non-profit the Loop has been operating community-based drug checking services in Bristol and Durham since 2018. 

Photo by Yvette de Wit


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