Pill Testing

CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service 

The ACT Government has launched Australia’s first fixed-site health and drug checking service as a six-month pilot. 

The CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service is operated by Directions Health Services with technical assistance from Pill Testing Australia.

This is a free service.

Drug checking is a harm reduction service (also known as pill testing) that analyses the contents of drugs to help service users better understand the unknown and potentially dangerous substances in illicit drugs.

Appropriate information, counselling and advice are provided to service users based on their specific test result, to encourage choices that reduce overall drug use and the harms associated with taking illicit drugs.

ACT Health has also developed The Festivals Pill Testing Policy, which provides guidance to event planners regarding harm minimisation at large events such as music festivals.

Location

CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service
Ground floor, City Community Health Centre
1 Moore Street, Canberra City, ACT

Opening hours

The service is open:

  • every Thursday from 10am – 1pm
  • every Friday from 6pm – 9pm 

Services provided

The service is available to all community members.

CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service provides:

  • chemical analysis of pills/drugs intended for personal use
  • tailored information, harm reduction advice and counselling based on the test results and any other issues raised by qualified alcohol and other drug workers, peer workers and nurses.
  • drop-in nurse consultations offering general health, sexual health and mental health advice. Clients don’t have to have drugs tested to use this service.

The service is free and confidential.

The service will be independently evaluated and results of the pilot will be used to determine future activities.

Background to drug checking pilot

Drug checking facilities have been effectively used internationally since the 1990s and are currently available in 20 countries within Europe and the Americas, as well as New Zealand.

The second Australian trial of a drug checking service was conducted by Pill Testing Australia at the Canberra Groovin the Moo festival in April 2019 as one element of a broader harm reduction approach.

This followed the first drug checking trial at the same festival in 2018. The 2019 trial was independently evaluated by the Australian National University - research that is a first of its kind in Australia. See the final evaluation report for further information.

ACT Health has developed The Festivals Pill Testing Policy, which provides guidance to event planners regarding harm minimisation at large events such as music festivals.

Q&As

Why should I get my pills/drugs tested?

The composition of illicit drugs is varied and highly unpredictable. Makers of illicit drugs often cut pills with other substances or include more dangerous drugs entirely.

Through conversations with experts on the results of chemical analysis of your pill, pill testing better manages your risks and helps you make an informed decision about whether you still want to take the drug.

What substances are tested?

Substances in the form of pills, capsules, powders, crystals and liquids can be tested. The service may not be able to test some substances like plant material, blotters or dilute solutions. In such instances the service can still provide harm reduction advice to reduce the risk associated with using these substances.

The CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service will only test small amounts of drugs that are intended for personal use.

How long does it take to test?

Testing and consultation can be as quick as 20 minutes, but may take longer. Depending on the substance being tested, you may be offered additional testing methods that require more time. These extra tests are optional and will only be conducted if requested.

Can I discard my drugs on site?

If you have had a substance tested and want to surrender a remaining small amount for safe disposal and/or further analysis, you can do so to testing staff at the Health and Drug Checking Service.

Will drugs be confiscated?

The small sample provided for testing will be destroyed through the testing process. Drugs presented for testing won’t be confiscated. Only small amounts of drugs for personal use should be presented for testing.

How are pills/drugs tested?

Before your drugs are tested, you will be asked to take a pre-test self-assessment to identify the substances you believe are in your pill/drug.

You provide a small sample of your pill/drug to put through the test equipment. Once the test is complete, the service staff provide you with information about the results and discuss the risks you would face if you consumed the found substances.

Is drug checking available at music festivals in the ACT?

The ACT Government supports drug checking at music festivals in line with The Festivals Pill Testing Policy. Drug checking service providers work with festival organisers and government to determine whether drug checking will be provided at a festival on a case-by-case basis.

Does drug checking make illicit drugs safe?

No. Drug checking services operate on a harm reduction basis only. Illicit drugs, including MDMA, are unsafe and testing can’t guarantee that you won’t suffer an adverse reaction by taking them.

Can people be arrested for possessing illegal drugs when they use the service?

While the police can always enforce the law, ACT Policing supports harm minimisation and health protection initiatives such as drug checking.

Page last updated on: 19 Jul 2022