Drug Checking Resources in BC

Substance Use News, March 

Those that live or work in the Vancouver area have a variety of drug checking options available to them in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The added good news is that the province has made drug checking available beyond the DTES too.


Drug checking options in the Downtown Eastside

In late fall of 2017, Vancouver launched a drug checking pilot to address the increasing number of fentanyl-related overdoses. The pilot service is available at Insite (139 East Hastings Street, Vancouver) on Mondays and Tuesdays from 2 PM to 8 PM,  and Powell Street Getaway (528 Powell Street, Vancouver) on Thursdays and Fridays from 10 AM to 3 PM.

The drug checking pilot uses FTIR technology, which works with infrared light to measure the presence of chemicals in a very small drug sample. It’s simply explained in this short video from Karmik, an organization focused on harm reduction at festivals and nightlife events.

Another option is fentanyl test strips. After a pilot project at Insite, Vancouver Coastal Health expanded the availability of test strips to include all safe injection and overdose prevention sites. These strips work when a few drops of water and a small sample of drug are combined. They  will show whether there is any fentanyl present in the sample.


Drug testing options at overdose prevention sites in BC

Fentanyl test strips are available in all supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites in BC. For a list of overdose prevention sites, visit the Overdose Prevention page managed by the BC government. It provides sites by Health Authority. This move is a good option for harm reduction. In a recent press piece on  Our Place shelter in Victoria, paramedic Cam Craig reported that “90 per cent of the drugs they test are positive for fentanyl.”


Read the evidence for drug checking

If you would like to read more information about additional types of drug testing, the BC Centre for Substance Use recently released a report: Drug Checking as a Harm Reduction Intervention – Evidence Review Report, which “provides a description and evaluation of existing drug checking technologies and services in other countries with reference to the available literature in this field.”

You can also read Fentanyl Overdose Reduction Checking Analysis Study (FORECAST) from John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. FORECAST had three phases that took place between April 2017 and November 2017: evaluating drug checking technologies; interviewing people who use drugs; and interviewing people from organizations that work with people who use drugs. It’s a quick and informative read on these important elements of drug checking as harm reduction.


Learn More:

Drug Checking as a Harm Reduction Intervention – Evidence Review Report (BC Centre on Substance Use, 2017)

Fentanyl Overdose Reduction Checking Analysis Study (FORECAST study; Bloomberg School of Public Health)

BC Centre on Substance Use

Vancouver Coastal Health Supervised Injection sites

Overdose Prevention in BC, including links to overdose options in different health authorities



Questions? Feedback? Get in touch! Janet Madsen, Capacity Building and Knowledge Translation Coordinator,

[email protected]





Image: Focus by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)