By Lydia Blundell
A strand of ‘super-ket’ has been discovered in Durham following drug testing by The Loop.
The Loop, founded in 2013, is a non-profit organisation which provides a drug safety testing service at various events as well as raising drug awareness.
Durham became the second city in the UK to provide The Loop’s Multi- Agency Safety Testing (MAST) to the general public, with Bristol having already facilitated it.
The Loop’s pop-up lab was set up in St Nicholas church on Market Square in Durham on the 12th and 15th of December, with the Christmas period being the busiest time of the year for drug and alcohol-related hospital admissions.
Fiona Measham, who has been Professor of Criminology at Durham University since 2013, co-founded The Loop and is now Director.
Professor Measham told Palatinate: “We live in the real world where, despite everything we may do to stop it, some people will take drugs and we want to help them make informed decisions about the risks involved. The Loop’s drug safety testing over the last three years shows information like this can change behaviour, reduce hospital admissions, provide valuable intelligence about drugs in circulation to alert emergency services and the wider community, and ultimately, we belief, help to reduce drug-related harm. We are grateful to Durham Constabuluary, Durham University and all our partners for their support in making this happen, and especially to St Nicholas church for allowing us to reach out to the local community from their church during the festive season.”
People could bring in one dose of any substance of concern for testing by The Loop chemists as well as chemists from Durham university chemistry department.
Testers would then have a fifteen- minute consultation with healthcare staff regarding the results, with the option to dispose of the substance there and then.
Durham students bought drugs from a local dealer under the impression it was ketamine, but after taking some suspected that it was not.
After testing by The Loop, the drug was found to be the first verified samples of 2-FDCK to appear in the UK. 2-FDCK is a ketamine analogue which is stronger and longer lasting.
The Loop issued a social media alert after the find, which stated, ‘2-FDCK (2-fluorodeschloroketamine) sold as ketamine. Tested by The Loop in Durham, UK. About 1.5x more potent than ketamine with 2-3x longer duration. Multiple samples confirmed.’
They then reported the discovery to the EMCDDA early warning system and passed on the analytical library reference of 2-FDCK to other drug safety testing NGOs around the world so that it is more easily identified.
Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham, said of the testing: ‘I think this is a welcome initiative to deal with an unwelcome problem. Anyone who thinks drugs are not freely available in the UK is hiding their head in the sand. We need to know what dangerous chemicals are in those drugs which are, all too often, available and this initiative is about making it safer for people.’
Professor Measham told Palatinate that, ‘publicly accessible drug safety testing can have value at local, national and international level, for academics (in chemistry and criminology), policy makers and health service provision.’
Photographs courtesy of The Loop