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This article is the author's final published version in Harm Reduction Journal, Volume 21, 2024, Article number 26.

The published version is available at Copyright © The Author(s) 2024.



Adulterants, such as fentanyl and xylazine, among others, are present in a high percentage of the illicit drug supply, increasing the risk for overdose and other adverse health events among people who use drugs (PWUD). Point-of-care drug checking identifes components of a drug sample and delivers results consumers. To successfully meet the diverse needs of PWUD, more information is needed about the utility of drug checking, motivations for using services contextualized in broader comments on the drug supply, hypothesized actions to be taken after receiving drug checking results, and the ideal structure of a program.


In December 2021, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 40 PWUD who were accessing harm reduction services in Philadelphia, PA. Participants were asked about opinions and preferences for a future drug checking program. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed and coded using content analysis to identify themes.


Participants were primarily White (52.5%) and male (60%). Heroin/fentanyl was the most frequently reported drug used (72.5%, n=29), followed by crack cocaine (60.0%, n=24) and powder cocaine (47.5%, n=19). Emerging themes from potential drug checking consumers included universal interest in using a drug checking program, intentions to change drug use actions based on drug checking results, deep concern about the unpredictability of the drug supply, engaging in multiple harm reduction practices, and concerns about privacy while accessing a service.


We offer recommendations for sites considering point-of-care drug checking regarding staffing, safety, logistics, and cultural competency. Programs should leverage pre-existing relationships with organizations serving PWUD and hire people with lived experiences of drug use. They should work with local or state government to issue protections to people accessing drug checking programs and ensure the service is anonymous and that data collection is minimized to keep the program low-threshold. Programs will ideally operate in multiple locations and span “atmosphere” (e.g., from clinical to a drop-in culture), ofer in-depth education to participants about results, engage with a community advisory board, and not partner with law enforcement.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.