The German parliament has passed a law enabling federal states to offer drug-checking projects in June.
Three counselling centres in Berlin are offering free, anonymous drug testing during the summer festival season.
“It's summer, there are festivals, people go out to celebrate and of course, they buy beforehand, they want to know what's in their substances so that the festival will be worthwhile or nice and they won't have any bad experiences,” said Anette Hofmann, coordinator for the drug testing pilot at Fixpunkt.
The facilities are listed on the pilot project’s website and consumers can come by during a two-hour window.
It’s on a first-come-first-served basis and visitors can also get ‘safer use tips’ and have their psychoactive substances tested to analyse ingredients and detect impurities.
The samples collected in the counselling centres are taken to the lab of Berlin's forensic medicine department (GerMed), which typically tests drugs in relation to investigations of deaths with suspected drug use.
The testing requires a single tablet or a small amount of powder. For legal reasons, users do not get the samples back and the leftover is discarded.
Since the pilot programme started in early June, GerMed has seen a surprising number of tablets containing too much active or unknown ingredients.
Stefan Scholtis, the head of Forensic Toxicology atGerMed, warned that an excessive dose can lead to adverse health effects and even death.
But he views the new initiative positively.
"You reach groups of users who normally cannot be addressed. And we create an awareness that drug use is generally harmful. And maybe we can convince one or the other to stay away from it,” said Scholtis.
Divergent opinions among Berliners
A participant at Rave the Planet agreed with Schotis, saying “there is a lot of shit going around. That's why it's good for people to know what it (the drugs) has."
But Stefan Flakowski at the Pride parade did not agree.
"Illegal is illegal, period. I think at events like this, with weather like this, you should be responsible towards yourself and just not do it," said Flakowski.
The German parliament passed a law enabling the federal states to offer drug-checking projects on 23 June.
“Drug checking can save lives and is an important first contact with advice centres for many consumers: I was able to see this for myself in the Berlin model project,” said the German government's addiction and drug commissioner Burkhard Blienert in a press release after a visit to a drug-checking facility in Berlin.
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