Drug Checking

We provide free, confidential
drug checking in the Okanagan

LocationHoursOutside Hours
VernonTuesdays 
11am – 1pm: 
IH Mental Health & Substance Use
(3306A, 32nd Ave.)
1pm-4pm:
Cammy Lefleur
(2800 33 St.)
Contact Mental Health & Substance Use
(250-503-3737) to ask about drug-checking
and dropping off samples.
KelownaTuesdays
5:30pm – 7:30pm: 
UBCO (Nechako 231)
Thursdays
5:30pm – 7:30pm: 
UBCO (UNC 337)
(3272 University Way) 
Wednesdays
2pm – 5pm: 
Living Positive Resource Centre 
(255 Lawrence Ave.)
Contact Living Positive (778-753-5830, info@lprc.ca)
to ask about drug-checking and dropping off samples.
PentictonDrug Checking is now being
provided through ASK
Wellness in Penticton
Contact information below to ask about
drug-checking and dropping off samples:  
Burdock House (24/7, 594 Winnipeg St, 236-422-1601)

What is Drug Checking?

Drug Checking is a free, confidential harm reduction service that provides people with information about what is in their drugs. By providing this information, people can choose to use their drugs in a more informed way. It is similar to knowing the percentage of alcohol in your drink, or the amount of sugar in your food. When you know what you are consuming, and how it might affect your body you can decide what effect you are looking for and how to decrease your risk of harm. Just like driving – we know getting in a car increases our risk of harm, but we choose to do this anyhow, and incorporate harm reducing measures like seatbelts and driving the speed limit.1,2

What happens with a sample?

When we get a drug sample, we can tell you the top 3 or 4 ingredients, and if it has fentanyl and/or benzodiazepines in it. Depending on the sample, sometimes we can see if it is especially different from other drugs we have checked recently. One of the limitations to our drug-checking is called the chocolate chip cookie effect – when you break off a piece of a chocolate chip cookie, it might have chocolate chips, and it might not. Similarly, when you provide us with a sample, it might not contain ingredients that are found in the rest of your drug; drugs are not distributed evenly, no matter how well mixed. 2

What about confidentiality?

We only check drugs with the consent of the person who owns the drug, and only contact them in ways they have consented to. We do not store contact information; any personal information is destroyed once results have been shared. Only staff directly involved in drug-checking will know the contact information.

FAQ

  • Packaging a Sample: If this is confusing, bring us your sample however you have it, and we’ll help you package it. We also provide supplies for this! Be safe when collecting a sample by packaging it in a safe place (e.g., where other people will not accidentally consume your substance like in a shared kitchen) and using protective equipment as needed (e.g., gloves, glasses). 
  1. Collect the sample — a sample needs to be about the size of a grain of rice 
  2. Place the sample in the middle of a small (ex. 2”x2”) piece of tinfoil, and fold so that the sample will not spill out 
  3. Place the foil square into a small plastic bag, and seal the bag 
  4. Place the bag into an envelope, along with the completed Sample Collection Form, and seal the envelope. 
  5. During service hours, you can come to the location or text/call our phone and a team member will meet you to collect your sample. Outside of service hours, see above for where you can drop off a sample, or contact us and we will assist you.
  • How It Works: You can drop off a sample during service hours, or at one of our drop locations (see the schedule above for this information). We need a sample the size of a grain of rice, and if you visit us in person, we can sometimes save some of the sample to return to you after checking. When we place the sample on our machine, a laser sends a signal to our laptop, which our technician then analyses. After the machine, we dissolve about 5 grains of salt-worth of the sample in water and use benzodiazepine and fentanyl test strips. Once we have results, we share them with you, along with any other important information. 2 
  • How long it takes to check your sample: It can take up to 30 minutes to analyze a sample, and if you arrive in person, we can provide results as soon as analysis is done. Otherwise, we provide results by the end of the day. However, if you would like your results earlier, notify the team and we will do everything we can to get that information to you quickly. 
  • What We Use: We use a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) machine alongside fentanyl test strips (FTS) and benzodiazepine test strips (BTS). The machine can tell us approximate percentages of what is in a sample, as long as it is a concentration of 5-10% or more. This means if there is a very small amount of something, it might not show up on the FTIR. That is why we use FTS and BTS – fentanyl and benzodiazepines can be present in small amounts and still be dangerous; test strips are more sensitive, and cannot tell us a percentage, but can tell us whether these substances are present. 2 
  • Legalities: We are able to offer these services as an overdose prevention service operating under the emergency act and with permission from the local medical health officer. 3
  • Getting used paraphernalia checked: We can also analyze used paraphernalia – used cookers can be sent for processing if they are dry and have a sample size worth of residue. Cookers can be placed directly into the zipper-sealed plastic bag. 
  • Other kinds of samples: We cannot check organic materials (weed, mushrooms). Liquids can be tricky to check, but we want to help however we can, so reach out and we will see what we can do! 

Contact us today!

Drug Checking References 

  1. Hawk, M., Coulter, R.W.S., Egan, J.E., Fisk, S., Friedman, M. R., Tula, M., & Kinsky, S. (2017). Harm reduction principles for healthcare settings. Harm Reduction Journal, 14(70). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-017-0196-4
  2. Tupper KW, McCrae K, Garber I, Lysyshyn M, Wood E. Initial results of a drug checking pilot program to detect fentanyl adulteration in a Canadian setting. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2018 Sept;1:242–45. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.06.020.
  3. British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (2019). BC overdose prevention services guide. Retrieved from http://www.bccdc.ca/resource-gallery/Documents/Guidelines%20and%20Forms/Guidelines%20and%20Manuals/Epid/Other/BC%20Overdose%20Prevention%20Services%20Guide_Jan2019.pdf.
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