People who use drugs in Toronto have long advocated for access to drug checking in an effort to reduce the harms associated with using drugs from the unregulated supply.
Launched in October 2019, Toronto’s drug checking service offers people who use drugs timely and detailed information on the contents of their drugs, helping them to make more informed decisions.
This drug checking service also helps to uncover the makeup of Toronto’s unregulated drug supply, which includes illegal drugs, as well as legal drugs diverted from regulated markets for sale through criminal channels. Information on Toronto’s unregulated drug supply is made publicly available.
How do I get my drugs checked?
Toronto’s drug checking service is free, anonymous, and available to everyone. Accepted samples include a substance (approximately 10mg of a powder or pill, blotter, or a small amount of liquid) and paraphernalia after it’s been used (a used cooker or filter, or leftover liquid from a syringe).
Samples are collected at five harm reduction agencies in Toronto where supervised consumption services are also offered:
- Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (Queen West site) – Bathurst and Queen
- South Riverdale Community Health Centre – Carlaw and Queen
- The Works at Toronto Public Health – Yonge and Dundas
- Moss Park Consumption and Treatment Service – Sherbourne and Queen
- Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (Parkdale site) – Dufferin and Queen
Results are available within a business day or two and are communicated to service users by harm reduction staff in person or by phone. Along with these results, service users receive tailored harm reduction supports, guidance, and referral to services (e.g., supervised consumption, naloxone training, primary health care).
How does Toronto’s drug checking service work?
Toronto’s drug checking service uses mass spectrometry technologies (gas and liquid chromatography). These sophisticated lab-based technologies offer detailed information about which drugs are found in each sample, along with some information about how much of each drug is present.
Toronto’s drug checking service is one of a few pilot projects that received funding from Health Canada to prevent overdose. This service operates by way of exemptions from the Government of Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
This drug checking service is being scientifically evaluated to understand its impacts on the health and well-being of people who use drugs in Toronto.
Who funds Toronto’s drug checking service?
Toronto’s drug checking service receives financial support from the Government of Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program and the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation. In-kind support is provided by all partners and collaborators.
Which partners and collaborators are involved in Toronto’s drug checking service?
Toronto’s drug checking service relies on a community advisory board of ten people who use drugs in Toronto who meet monthly to consult on its design and execution.
This drug checking service partners and collaborates with a range of community members and organizations, clinicians, researchers, policymakers, and others, including:
- Alliance for Collaborative Drug Checking
- British Columbia Centre on Substance Use
- Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction’s National Drug Checking Working Group
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- Health Canada’s Drug Analysis Service
- Health Canada’s Office of Controlled Substances
- Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program
- Moss Park Consumption and Treatment Service
- Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario
- Ontario Harm Reduction Network
- Ontario Poison Centre
- Parkdale QueenWest Community Health Centre
- Public Health Ontario
- South Riverdale Community Health Centre
- St. Michael’s Hospital (Unity Health Toronto)
- Street Health
- The Works at Toronto Public Health
- Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance
- Toronto Paramedic Services
- Toronto Public Health
- Trip! Project
- Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project
We acknowledge the members of our community advisory board, our partner organizations, and those that have lost their lives – both in the ongoing drug poisoning crisis and long before – due to policies of drug criminalization.
We acknowledge that the land on which we operate Toronto’s drug checking service is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples, and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
We acknowledge that racialized communities and survivors of colonization are disproportionately impacted by unjust drug policies. We strive to support the development of equitable drug policies that are responsive to the needs of racialized people who use drugs – including Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour – and their communities.