Drug checking to improve monitoring of new psychoactive substances in Australia

Robin J Butterfield, Monica J Barratt, Nadine Ezard and Richard O Day
Med J Aust 2016; 204 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/mja15.01058
Published online: 7 March 2016

Drug checking may need to play a part in future public health interventions

As has been reported previously in the Journal,1 novel psychoactive stimulant drugs are now increasingly prevalent in patients presenting to hospital emergency departments. A further cluster of 11 patients showing confusing hallmarks of sympathomimetic poisoning but no identifiable substance presented to St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney over a public holiday weekend in April 2015. Also, the start to the 2015–2016 summer festival season has included multiple deaths and hospitalisations following drug use at festivals, leading to calls for novel actions to protect public health.2 Here, we take the opportunity to describe a method of harm minimisation that has been deployed in Europe and could potentially be deployed locally to tackle this problem.

  • 1 St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 St. Vincent's Clinical School, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
  • 3 National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
  • 4 National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, WA


Monica Barratt is the recipient of a National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Researcher Fellowship (APP1070140).

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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