Drug Content Monitoring
Drug content monitoring is the examination of the contents of drugs from the illegal drug supply. It helps identify drug contamination and gathers information for people who use drugs to better understand what they might be taking and make more informed decisions.
Drug content monitoring can inform harm reduction services, supports and policies, which can help reduce overdose deaths and other harms associated with drug use. It is especially important as we are seeing increasing contamination of drugs on the illegal market with fentanyl, benzodiazepines and other substances, with an associated increase in health harms.
A better understanding of the contents of drugs from the unregulated drug supply is needed to plan for and improve responses such as the provision of observed consumption (injection or inhalation) sites, the distribution of harm reduction supplies (needles, pipes, naloxone kits), building awareness among first responders and harm reduction messaging.
How Drug Content Monitoring Is Done
One way to monitor drug contents is to test drug samples through drug checking. This checking provides information about substances that are and are not present in the sample, which empowers people who use drugs to make informed decisions. The national Drug Checking Working Group was founded in 2015. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) acts as secretariat for the group.
Another method of drug monitoring is urine toxicology screening of people after they have used drugs. The urinalysis results are compared with reports by people of what they think they used. The Community Urinalysis and Self-Report Project aims to build the capacity of harm reduction sites across Canada to generate information for local service delivery as well as for monitoring national substance use trends.