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New drug checking machine now available in Prince George

To save lives, and help people who use drugs make informed choices, a new Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) drug checking machine is now operational in Prince George, in partnership with the POUNDS Project (Preventing Overdose UNDoing Stigma).

“BC is using every tool in our toolbox to tackle the ongoing public health emergency and prevent future deaths due to the toxic drug supply,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a news release. “Drug checking technology has the power to reduce poisoned drug deaths and save lives. I am grateful that this cost-effective drug-checking machine is coming to Prince George as an additional tool in our response to the drug-poisoning crisis.”

Drug checking is an evidence-informed harm reduction tool that allows people to check what’s in their drugs. Using the FTIR machine, trained staff at the POUNDS project location in downtown Prince George will now be able to do advanced drug checking in the community, including fentanyl and benzo testing. The machine can test a range of substances, including opioids, stimulants, and other psychoactive drugs such as MDMA.

“Drug checking is one of many harm reduction tools we can use to help keep individuals in our communities safer. At The POUNDS Project, we strive to be a safe and inclusive space for all people who use drugs. This support is offered to individuals who occasionally consume, weekend warriors, and folks who use substances daily. Individuals from any walk of life are welcome to visit Two Doors Down to use the new service.”

Drug checking services using the FTIR machine will be available six days a week. In the mornings from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and in the evenings 4-8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday (closed Mondays), at the POUNDS project, 1126 Third Ave. Appointments can be made outside these hours by texting or calling 250-301-3285. Clients can use the drug checking service and use the OPS after the check is done or drop off samples and pick up the results at a later time.

How it works

The FTIR analyzes drug samples by shining a light on it and measuring how that light is absorbed. The analysis can tell what is in the sample, including what the primary components of the substance are and also if there are any adulterants. The technician may also be able to provide an estimate of concentration levels of a substance.

Once the analysis is complete, results are provided to the client along with related harm reduction information to help them develop a safety plan to help prevent overdose. Sample analysis can also improve the timeliness and accuracy of toxic drug alerts issued to communities, to create broader awareness around specific substances that are flagged.

For more information on drug checking, see drugcheckingbc.ca. For information and resources on overdose prevention in the Northern Health region, see northernhealth.ca/health-topics/overdose-prevention.

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