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Delivering the CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service

image - Dr Mal McLeod Cropped
Author: Mal McLeod

Resource Type: NDARC Seminars

Professor Mal McLeod presented at the NDARC Webinar Series on Thursday, 23 February 2023.

About the webinar

In July 2022, Australia’s first fixed site drug checking service CanTEST opened as a six-month pilot program in central Canberra, delivered by Directions Health Services in partnership with Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy (CAHMA) and Pill Testing Australia (PTA) and funded by the ACT Government. This builds on the two successful trials of drug checking at the Groovin the Moo festival in Canberra in 2018 and 2019, developed and delivered by PTA. So, what is drug checking?

Drug checking or pill testing is a harm reduction intervention that seeks to reduce the risks associated with drug use. Drug samples presented by members of the public are subject to chemical analysis, with the results returned directly to the client. The information provided by the client and chemical analysis of the sample is used to inform conversations between the client analysts and health or harm reduction workers about sample contents and potential risks associated with consumption. Drug checking can also provide people who use drugs with avenues to engage with health professionals and associated services more broadly and also serves as an effective mechanism to monitor the unregulated drug market.

This seminar discussed how the service was developed and delivered through close collaboration between a range of government and non-government stakeholders. It described the analytical technologies employed, some lessons learned through service delivery, and selected more interesting findings from the pilot program.

Representatives from Directions Health Services and CAHMA joined Associate Professor Mal McLeod (PTA) for a panel discussion after the presentation to answer questions from the audience.


About the Speaker

Professor Mal McLeod is a chemist with research interests that include medicinal chemistry and the development of new chemical and analytical technologies to study drugs and drug metabolism. He led the chemistry teams at the ACT Government-sanctioned pill testing trials held at Groovin the Moo in 2018 and 2019 and at the CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service pilot that opened in July 2022. He also serves as a scientific advisor to Pill Testing Australia on the use of analytical technologies for drug checking. He was awarded a 2020 Churchill Fellowship to visit leading international drug-checking services to rapidly improve the analytical chemistry capabilities in Australia.