•   Monday, 26 Sep, 2022
First government backed pill testing clinic finds 40% of cocaine contained no coke

First government-backed pill testing clinic finds 40% of cocaine contained no coke

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Australia’s first government-backed pill and drug testing service has found a majority of samples were tainted with other substances, with a quarter of people choosing to ditch their drugs after getting them checked.

In its first month of operation, Canberra’s fixed-site CanTest health and drug checking clinic examined 70 samples, with 18 people discarding their drugs once the results were in.

Researchers found all the cocaine tested at the service had purity levels below 27% – with 40% of the samples containing no cocaine. One sample without any cocaine included the cutting agent dimethyl sulfone.

All of the heroin samples contained heroin, with purity levels ranging from 31% to 63%, while just over 65% of MDMA samples contained that drug.

A majority of ketamine samples contained the substance, while one methamphetamine sample was found to be sugar.

The samples were analysed by chemists at ANU’s Research School of Chemistry. Associate Prof Malcolm McLeod said the results provided insight into what kinds of drugs were being sold in the local market.

“They also suggest the service is reaching a far broader cross-section of the drug-taking community than what was possible from Australia’s first festival-based pill testing services conducted in previous years.”

The CanTest service is a six-month trial run in collaboration with Directions Health Services, CAMHA, Pill Testing Australia and ACT Health.

There were previously short-term pill testing trials at the Groovin’ The Moo music festivals in Canberra in 2018 and 2019 run by Pill Testing Australia.

People who attended the fixed-site service in August reported feeling safe and respected. They said they received clear information.

Associate Prof David Caldicott from ANU’s medical school, who helped oversee and run the testing service, said it was important to engage “a new generation of young consumers, many of whom have never sought advice on their drug consumption before”.

“For some, those decisions involve choosing not to consume the drugs they volunteered to have tested,” he said. “For others, they may choose to use their drugs in a way that makes them less likely to be harmed.”

Caldicott said pill testing acknowledged the reality of drug taking. He said any suggestion Australia could one day be drug-free was “magical thinking” from a bygone era.

The Canberra CBD clinic tested for fentanyl – a drug of concern that’s increasingly popular.

“To date, we have tested 15 samples for traces of fentanyl, with none showing signs of these dangerous and potent synthetic opiates,” Caldicott said.

“The fact that fentanyl derivatives were not present in any of the samples test is very good news, given these dangerous and potent synthetic opiates have ravaged North America.”

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