To read this content please select one of the options below:

Who uses drug checking services? Assessing uptake and outcomes at English festivals in 2018

Fiona Measham (Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)
Henry Simmons (The Loop, Bristol, UK)

Drugs, Habits and Social Policy

ISSN: 2752-6739

Article publication date: 7 November 2022

Issue publication date: 7 December 2022




This study aims to assess service user characteristics, uptake and outcomes for drug checking services offered to over 250,000 English festival-goers in summer 2018 and to compare findings with earlier years, wider festival-goers and the general population.


A total of 2,672 substances of concern were submitted by the public and tested by chemists in mobile laboratories on 24 show days at seven festivals. Results were embedded in 2,043 individually tailored brief interventions (BI) delivered by health professionals to 4,240 service users. Comparative data were collected through anonymous self-report surveys with 1,291 respondents at five of the same festivals.


Three percent of drug-using festival-goers received BI, 95% of whom had not previously accessed health services regarding their alcohol or other drug use. Drug checking service users were significantly more likely to be younger, male and past month polydrug users with a wider range of drugs consumed in the last month compared with the general festival population. For samples matching purchase intent, nearly half intended to reduce dosage, with younger and female service users significantly more likely to reduce dosage. For substances identified as other than expected, nearly two thirds disposed of them.

Social implications

Festivals are potential sites to deliver innovative health interventions and to monitor their outcomes, reduce the risk of poisoning and overdose, and facilitate access to follow-up support services.


This study suggests that there is value in event-based services that provide risk reduction communications directly to young adults engaged in higher risk drug use compared with wider event and general populations.



The authors thank all the festivals, stakeholders and especially The Loop staff for supporting the delivery of drug checking services in the UK in 2016–18.

Conflict of interest: The authors are unpaid staff at The Loop, the non-profit non-governmental organisation ( that delivered drug checking services in the UK festivals in 2016–2018 featured in this study.


Measham, F. and Simmons, H. (2022), "Who uses drug checking services? Assessing uptake and outcomes at English festivals in 2018", Drugs, Habits and Social Policy, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 188-199.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles