In The Loop: Harm Reduction and Drug Testing Take Centre Stage on the Airwaves

by Henry Fisher

This biggest news story this week in UK drug policy has been announcement that Secret Garden Party has been the first UK event to trial ‘front of house‘ drug testing – a service where festival-goers could anonymously get their drugs tested and receive advice on the risks of their drug use and how to reduce them.

The news has received widespread and largely positive media attention, with our own policy director publishing a personal account of his experience volunteering with The Loop, the organisation conducting the service, and along with Fiona Measham, director and co-founder of The Loop, an explanation of the groundwork she needed to undertake to make the service a reality.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Measham gave an explanation of the purpose of the service, and what it hoped to achieve:

The coverage on BBC radio continued with an extended explanation of the service on Radio 1 Newsbeat by members of The Loop team, along with an enthusiastic show of support from festival-goers using the service and long-time supporter of The Loop, DJ B. Traits.

The concept of front of house drug testing was then put to through its paces yesterday, along with harm reduction-based drug policy reform more generally, on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, where it was defended by Steve Rolles of Transform, journalist, author and recent VolteFace guest Johann Hari, and Matthew Taylor of the RSA against a barrage of attacks.

The show provided entertaining if sometimes challenging listening as the moral basis for both drug reform and harm reduction was questioned from all angles. The topic meandered into abstract questions such as whether drug taking in itself could be considered immoral, and certainly led to some lively debate.

Unfortunately in the excitement, the initial topic of providing drug testing services became somewhat sidelined, but for those looking to hear a more detailed description of the service provided by The Loop, a more accepting audience could be found at independent radio station Resonance FM, where our policy director was the guest on late night show Very Loose Women, discussing harm reduction and drug testing:

The second pilot of The Loop’s front of house drug testing service gets underway at Kendal Calling this weekend, and while some will still be sceptical of whether its positives outweigh the potential pitfalls, others will be hoping it is not long until such services are a routine occurrence at festivals around the country. As news comes of a similar service starting up in Uruguay too this week, it seems it’s finally #TimeToTest.

Words by Henry Fisher

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