"The adulteration of illicit drugs is not a new phenomenon, with evidence of it occurring as early as the 1930s (Morgan, 1982). Ecstasy, in particular, has a long history of adulteration (Hayner, 2002; Morelato et al., 2014; Verweij, 1992) which has been exacerbated in recent years by the emergence of new psychoactive substances (NPS; ~900 identified to date, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2019). The composition of drugs sold as MDMA/Ecstasy/Molly in particular varies substantially over time and across countries (Brunt et al., 2017) – currently, adulterated ecstasy remains a concern in North America and Australia (primarily among nightclub and dance festival attendees; Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, 2019; Mohr, Friscia, Yeakel & Logan, 2018; Palamar et al., 2017), while high dose/purity ecstasy is dominating the European market (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2019). Drugs adulterated with fentanyl and its analogs are now of particular concern in the US as tens of thousands of people are now dying in the US per year from fentanyl exposure (Scholl, Seth, Kariisa, Wilson & Baldwin, 2018) and it is likely that many of these deaths result from unknown exposure (Ciccarone, Ondocsin & Mars, 2017). To mitigate the risks associated with consuming unregulated substances, drug-checking services have been operating for decades, whereby individuals submit drug samples to have the contents identified and analyzed for purity (Barratt, Kowalski, Maier & Ritter, 2018; Brunt, 2017; Renfroe, 1986). A global review of drug checking services operating in 2017 identified 31 services, three of which were operating in North America: DanceSafe, EcstasyData, and ANKORS (Barratt, Kowalski et al., 2018). These services reported using reagent tests kits, often in combination with other methodologies, including thin layer chromatography and gas chromatography mass spectrometry (Harper, Powell & Pijl, 2017).
"In addition to formal drug-checking services, the use of personal reagent test kits appears to be relatively common (i.e., ‘informal’ drug checking). A recent study estimated that over one-fifth (23%) of past-year ecstasy consumers in New York City had tested (or had someone test) their ecstasy using a drug testing kit in the past year (Palamar & Barratt, 2019). Similarly, a study of ecstasy consumers in Australia found that 22% reported personal use of testing kits (Johnston et al., 2006). However, while numerous studies have explored the prevalence, acceptability, and behavioral outcomes associated with both formal and informal drug checking (e.g., Barratt, Bruno, Ezard & Ritter, 2018; Day et al., 2018; Goldman et al., 2019; Measham, 2019), little attention has been devoted to understanding the role and broader experiences of ‘drug-checkers’ (i.e., people who test their own and/or other people’s substances). As such it remains unknown who is testing drugs, the motivations for doing so, and what barriers they may experience. This omission is particularly concerning given that many of these individuals are volunteers, operating in environments which are fraught with political and legal challenges (Barratt, Kowalski et al., 2018), and may be taking a considerable personal risk in providing such services."
Palamar, J. J., Acosta, P., Sutherland, R., Shedlin, M. G., & Barratt, M. J. (2019). Adulterants and altruism: A qualitative investigation of "drug checkers" in North America. The International journal on drug policy, 74, 160–169. doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.09.017