How to submit a sample for drug checking
Different harm reduction agencies may have different criteria and processes for submitting samples. Some organizations may charge a fee, but the Massachusetts harm reduction agencies providing services through MADDS provide drug checking services free of charge. A list of these organizations is available at the bottom
of this page. If you are in Massachusetts and interested in providing a sample through MADDS or integrating it into your harm reduction agency’s activities, please read below. If you are outside of Massachusetts, contact us and we can help connect you to a local drug checking program or other testing resources.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR SUBMITTING A DRUG SAMPLE?
When a drug sample is brought to one of the organizations listed below, a staff member will ask a few
questions, such as where the sample was purchased, what it was sold as, and the use experience. A QR or alphanumeric identification code will be provided for each sample so that the person submitting the sample
and the organization can track the results through lab testing.
WHAT ARE THE CRITERA TO SUBMIT A SAMPLE?
Samples should be visible to the naked eye to be tested. The ideal size is equal to about half a grain of rice.
Powders, rocks, crystals, and pills are accepted.
Pipes, cookers, and cottons that have been used once are also eligible for testing.
Baggies and wax folds may be submitted if the residue is visible and they have not been ripped open, had thebottom cut off, or been licked clean.
Pipes, cookers, and cottons that have been used multiple times should not be submitted since we cannot differentiatethe contents from each time it’s been used.
Syringes are not accepted due to safety concerns.
This handy card can be printed and kept in a wallet to help remember criteria for drug samples.
Why are questions about the origin of the sample and use experience asked?
Asking for details about the origin of the sample and the use experience are not to pass judgment on the
person submitting the sample nor to collect any identifying information. They are strictly used to help the
device operators and laboratory with their testing strategies and to help better inform public communications
if a concerning substance or trend in the drug supply is detected.
For example, learning that a substance caused a seizure or had a distinctive smell when being prepared can
help identify the substance faster and alert others of possible harm. Use experiences related to the veterinary sedative xylazine were helpful in creating recent alerts to inform harm reduction agency staff, the community,
WHEN ARE RESULTS READY?
The availability of results depends on the capacity of the organization where the sample is submitted. Initial preliminary results, such as with a fentanyl test strip, benzodiazepine test strip, and pH test strip, will be
available within 15 to 30 minutes of submitting the sample. Results from FTIR spectrometry will be available
within 15 minutes to 48 hours of testing, depending on the site’s capacity. Not all organizations have their own FTIR device, so while this may mean results could be available soon after dropping-off a sample in person to
up to 48 hours of submitting samples at organizations that have an FTIR onsite, it may take several days or
longer for testing to occur for organizations that do not have their own FTIR device. In many cases, samples are sent by mail for GC/MS testing after FTIR testing. Results from GC/MS testing will be available between
2 to 3 weeks after the samples are received at the lab.
HOW WILL RESULTS BE SHARED?
A QR or identification code is provided for each sample submitted. The code can be used to look-up the results. Users also have the option on StreetCheck to provide their email address, phone number (for SMS) or neither. If an email address or phone number is provided, the user will receive immediate and up-to-date information about their sample as it moves through testing. If you do not wish to provide your information, you can work with your community partner to receive your results.
WHERE IS DRUG CHECKING AVAILABLE IN MASSACHUSETTS?
The following organizations provide free drug checking in collaboration with StreetCheck and the MADDS
Access, Harm Reduction, Overdose Prevention, and Education (AHOPE) by the Boston Public Health Commission in Boston, MA*
Brockton Neighborhood Health Center in Brockton, MA*
Community Wellness Centers operated by Seven Hills Foundation & Affiliates in New Bedford, MA
Healthy Streets Outreach Program by Health Innovations in Lynn, MA*
Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in Lawrence, MA
Manet Community Health Center in Quincy, MA
One Stop Prevention & Screening Services by North Shore Health Project in Gloucester, MA
SSTAR in Fall River, MA
Tapestry Health in Northampton, Holyoke, and Greenfield, MA
Healthy Steps by Berkshire Health Systems in Berkshire County, MA*
*Note: These organizations have their own FTIR devices available. Results from a sample may be returned faster here than at other organizations.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT DRUG CHECKING?
Drug checking is a service provided so that people can make more educated decisions about their drug use. It doesnot guarantee safer drugs or safe use.
Drug checking provides the ratio of known active substances likely to be present in drug samples. It does not provide evidence of purity, dose, or actual quantities of substances in the sample.
People respond differently to drugs. Drug checking does not provide personalized information about how a personwill respond to the sample they provided.
The information provided by StreetCheck is provided for harm reduction efforts. It is not an endorsement of drugs,drug use, or how drugs are used.
If you haven’t found answers to your questions about submitting a sample, or for more information on drug checking with StreetCheck, please contact us.