Evidence Brief: Drug checking services as a harm reduction intervention


Key Questions: What is the effectiveness of drug checking services for adults who use drugs on drug use behaviours or serious adverse health outcomes related to drug use? 

This paper provides an overview of the effects of drug checking services as a harm reduction intervention.

Composed from a review of 14 unique potential guidance documents or reports, this document provides guidelines for drug checking, information on drug use risk behaviours, and recommendations for advancing relevant research. 

For more information: Opioid Crisis Management: Foundation Roadmap


  • Key Messages
  • Issue and Research Question
  • Methods
  • Main Findings
    • Guidelines for drug checking
    • Drug use risk behaviours
    • Adverse health outcomes
  • Discussion and Conclusions
  • Implications for Practice
  • References
Link to Tool: 

Drug checking services are harm reduction techniques which typically allow for people to anonymously submit samples of a drug they plan to consume for a drug analysis. Testing is often paired with counseling and discussing issues, providing harm reduction supplies, and referrals.  

Key Messages

  • There is little evidence on the effectiveness of drug checking services on drug use behaviour or health outcomes
  • A long history of drug checking services in other countries may help to guide good practice
  • Drug checking services have been useful for monitoring the drug supply for adulterants and new psychoactive substances, which can be used to issue public alerts


Contact Person/Organization: 

Public Health Ontario

Type of Tool:

Publication Date: 

A Brief Introduction to Drug Checking & Why It's Important