10 key findings related to the impact of Toronto’s Drug Checking Service

Toronto’s Drug Checking Service is a free and anonymous public health service that aims to reduce the harms associated with substance use and, specifically, to prevent overdose by uncovering the toxicity and potency of the unregulated drug supply.

Operating as a pilot program since October 2019, Toronto’s Drug Checking Service has checked over 9,000 samples from the unregulated drug supply: sharing detailed information on the contents of their drugs with service users and disseminating unregulated drug market trends publicly every other week to inform those who cannot directly access the service, as well as care for people who use drugs, advocacy, policy, and research.

This report summarizes 10 key findings related to the impact of the pilot period, which are consistent with the learnings of those implementing and evaluating similar programs in British Columbia (BCCSU Drug Checking Program and the University of Victoria Substance project) and elsewhere. We hope this report will add to the evidence supporting the necessity of drug checking services and be used to advocate for services and safer alternatives for people who use drugs.

01 Drug checking provides potentially life-saving information to those at highest risk of overdose.

02 Drug checking facilitates behaviour change.

03 Drug checking provides a gateway to accessing harm reduction services.

04 Drug checking services enable monitoring of the unregulated drug market and public dissemination of drug market trends in real time.

05 Drug checking informs clinicians and care.

06 Drug checking findings improve health and social services.

07 Drug checking empowers people who use drugs to advocate for themselves and help develop solutions that impact them.

08 Drug checking generates evidence to support advocacy for services and safer alternatives for people who use drugs.

09 Toronto’s Drug Checking Service has created turnkey solutions for other organizations and jurisdictions to establish local drug checking programs, increasing system efficiencies and limiting redundancy.

10 Drug checking is valuable to people who use drugs.

Despite its positive and quantifiable impact on responding to Canada’s overdose epidemic, Toronto’s Drug Checking Service has now been operating for over two months without a long-term funding commitment, and is actively winding down services. We urge governments to act now to support the extension and expansion of this essential public health service. If you are interested in supporting us or learning more, please contact us at drugchecking@cdpe.org.

Read the report.