Clinic consultation

Inside Australia’s first pill testing clinic

Australia’s first fixed pill testing clinic has officially opened in Canberra. It joins the very short list of places in the world where you can check what’s actually in your medication.

The site was opened following years of advocacy by Pills test Australia. The clinic is called CanTEST and it is run by Directions Health with expert support and staff from the Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimization & Advocacy and the Australian National University.

CanTEST Clinic (Image provided)

Mitch Lamb has worked at the clinic since the doors opened last month and has already seen a huge demand for the service.

“I think a lot of people thought it was going to start slow and I can tell you now that, thanks to the work on the site, it’s not slow at all,” says Lamb.

CanTEST has two main purposes, the first is to offer a service for testing drug samples and the second is to provide information for harm reduction.

“One of the big problems with taking drugs that you might have obtained illicitly is that you might not know what’s in them, so this service is really, first of all, providing you with the data.”

“And then I think the most important part is actually the second part, harm reduction. We’re filling a gap where you can give very simple advice to people who use drugs in a way that protect them.

“Once you have this knowledge, you can identify an overdose or pass on information on how to use MDMA more safely,” says Lamb.

Drug testing at CanTEST. (Picture provided)

Although a clinical service, CanTEST bridges the gap for people who use drugs to ensure the experience feels less clinical and focuses on creating a welcoming and safe environment.

“You walk into a building and you have drugs in your pocket and it can be difficult at the best of times. So it’s good to show the community that we’re here to help. »

Although CanTEST does not have a formal agreement with the ACT police, anyone visiting the clinic can be assured that they will not be arrested upon entering or leaving the site, and all tests are carried out confidentially.

During the first few weeks of operation, the clinic tested a wide range of different drugs and saw many samples discarded when the results showed a different result than what the drug was suspected to be.

“Some of the things we’ve come across are psychoactive substances, which are kind of a new field of drugs based on research chemicals and a lot more backyard chemists,” Lamb says.

“We kind of see things that you’d expect to see at your typical music festival, and quite often we find people showing up on the site and thinking it’s a ketamine sample, and what ‘they come out with the information that it might not quite be ketamine.

“One of the things I think I can say with confidence is that there’s a lot of filler in a lot of these drugs,” Lamb told Junkee.

Sniffer dogs deployed at Splendor In The Grass this year (Getty Image)

CanTEST is on a six-month fixed pilot and when asked what needs to happen to ensure the clinic goes past the initial period, or even see more clinics open in different states, Mitch Lamb had an answer. : more drugs.

“We need a lot of medicine. We need heaps.

“The more data we present the better for us, we just want a mountain of data. So if you’re thinking of doing it and you’re about to, I encourage you to give it a try once.

The clinic hopes to reinforce that drug use is first and foremost a health issue, and if clinic clients throw away their medications after finding out what’s in them, Mitch Lamb says they’ve achieved their goal of improve people’s health.

“It’s really about harm reduction and it’s a proven method to not only keep people safe, but what’s really important right now is to keep the pressure on our hospital system.”