RSC School Seminar - Professor Mal McLeod (ANU)

Title: Delivering the CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service

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21 Sep 2023 | 12 - 1pm
person Speaker


Professor Mal McLeod
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Malin Finell
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RSC School Seminar - Mal McLeod 21.09.2023

Delivering the CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service


In July 2022 Australia’s first fixed site drug checking service CanTEST opened as a six month pilot program in central Canberra, operated by Directions Health Services and funded by the ACT Government, with the support of Pill Testing Australia and the Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy. In January and July 2023, the pilot was extended out to Dec 2024. This builds on the two successful trials of drug checking at the Groovin the Moo festival in Canberra in 2018 and 2019, developed and delivered by Pill Testing Australia. So, what is drug checking?

Drug checking, or pill testing is a harm reduction intervention that seeks to reduce the risks associated with drug use. Drug samples presented by members of the public are subject to chemical analysis with the results returned directly to the client. The information provided by the client and chemical analysis of the sample is used to inform conversations between the client, analysts and harm reduction workers about sample contents and potential risks associated with consumption. Drug checking can also provide people who use drugs with avenues to engage with health professionals and associated services more broadly, and also serves as a powerful approach to monitor the unregulated drug market.

This seminar will discuss how the service was developed and delivered through the close collaboration between a range of government and non-government stakeholders. It will also describe the analytical technologies employed, some of the lessons learned through service delivery, a selection of the more interesting findings arising from the pilot program to date, and a reflection on the future of drug checking in Australia.


Professor Mal McLeod is a chemist with research interests that include the development of new chemical and analytical technologies to study drugs and drug metabolism. He led the chemistry teams at the ACT Government sanctioned pill testing trials held at Groovin the Moo in 2018 and 2019 and at the CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service pilot that opened in July 2022. He also serves as scientific advisor to Pill Testing Australia and Directions Health Services on the use of analytical technologies for drug checking. As a 2020 Churchill Fellow he visited leading international drug checking services to rapidly improve the analytical chemistry capabilities in Australia. He uses caffeine as his preferred stimulant and alcohol as occasional depressant, but never at the same time.


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