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Type of submission: Oral
Conference track: Research
Topics: Innovative Harm Reduction Programmes; Peer-Driven Treatment, Care and Harm Reduction
Presenting author: Helena Valente
Helena Valente, Daniel Martins, Helena Carvalho
Harm Reduction (HR) programs are being implemented in recreational settings across Europe, but these interventions, particularly Drug Checking (DC) services, suffer from a lack of thorough evaluation. In Portugal, since 2001 the law specifically addresses the possibility that HR projects be equipped with analytical instruments to identify and assess composition of psychoactive substances with the goal of informing the users. The Portuguese outreach project CHECK!N was created in 2006 to developed HR responses in party settings and, with the funding of the Portuguese High Commissioner for Health, began providing drug checking activities in party settings. The data presented here was collected by CHECK!N at the 2014 Boom Festival. Boom is a biennal festival of psychedelic culture and in 2014 gathered 40.000 people from 150 countries. The goal of the present research was to understand the impact of DC in its users’ drug taking behavior. During the 5-day festival, 625 suspected drug samples were submitted to drug checking and DC users were asked to fill pre-test/ post-test questionnaires. From a total of 235 people that the surveys were applied to and paired in 57% of the cases only the expected sample was detected, in 10,2% the expected substance appeared mixed with other adulterants and in 32,7% of the cases an unexpected substance was detected. Of the people that received the result “expected substance plus adulterants” 20,8% reported not taking the substance. Of the total of users which the result was “unexpected substance”, 72,7% reported not taking the substance. Based on these and other results that we will further developed in our presentation we argue that DC is an effective tool to help users respond to market adulteration and manage their drug use. These results show that users when given accurate information about their dug content implement actions to protect their health.