By: Rachel Clark, Programs & Communications Coordinator
As many of you know, we routinely release Test It! Alerts that detail the appearance, location, and contents of adulterated drugs around the country based on Erowid’s DrugsData Project and community-submitted entries. We believe that this information on its own is useful and important – however, we also want to ensure that our community understands the true purpose of these alerts, which is more than simply being aware of the current nature of the drug market.
Why does DanceSafe release alerts?
Test It! Alerts are not intended to indicate that a certain form of a certain substance is one to “look out for;” rather, they should be internalized as a reminder of just how broad and unregulated the illicit drug market is, and how even an unassuming-looking substance can contain completely different chemicals than what it is marketed as to the consumer.
To be clear: We do not release alerts simply because we want to warn against consuming, for instance, a specific press and color of a pill. We release alerts because there are around 950 NPS (new psychoactive substances) on the market as of 2020, many of which look identical to hundreds of other drugs and have (sometimes indistinguishably) similar effects (but different toxicity profiles). We release alerts because fentanyl has permeated virtually every corner of the illicit drug supply, and continues to rise in prominence every day. We release alerts because even someone who has educated themselves about drugs and safety can attempt to identify a substance simply through sensory information, and end up inadvertently consuming something very different than what they intended to, possibly leading to serious consequences.
How should I use these alerts?
We encourage you to take advantage of our alerts in three ways:
- Understand Adulteration: When reading these alerts, take note of the fact that they come from all over the country, pertain to ALL kinds of drugs (from cannabis to MDMA to opioids to stimulants), and frequently reference substances that you may have never heard of before. Pills, powders, plants, you name it – whatever the form, things are often not what they seem.
Recognizing that a person’s eyes, mouth, and brain cannot distinguish between chemicals without the help of advanced drug checking technology makes us safer, more humble, and more helpful members of our communities. This is especially important given how many alert submissions contain completely unidentified chemicals – that is, while drawing from a database of over a thousand drugs, whatever is contained in a sample hasn’t been seen by the machine before. Internalize this fact. Many drugs are so similar or so new that no human could possibly identify them.
- Substance Education: Alert blogs contain carefully researched summaries of the effects and possible risks or benefits of certain drugs, many of which are risky/dangerous to consume unknowingly (or are completely novel). By familiarizing yourself with these substances, you become a more effective peer educator and community support figure. Never heard of 2-Fluorodeschloroketamine (2-FDCK)? Neither have most people. Taking the time to actually read alert posts and collect more information makes you an invaluable resource to others, and (if you’re a person who uses drugs) reduces your own risk too!
- Signal Boosting: Knowing the above information about adulteration and substance safety allows you to act as a relay point for others who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access information about adulteration and substance safety. Sharing alerts with others, either digitally or by word of mouth, with accompanying explanations of what they imply and how others should interpret them, spreads the message of the importance of harm reduction practices and helps make the general public more aware of how risky illicit purchases truly are. We can’t do this part without you.
What does DanceSafe put out alerts about?
We receive alert submissions from individuals and organizations around the country, as well as from combing through Erowid’s DrugsData project database (www.drugsdata.org). Generally, we will release an alert about a substance if:
- It contains an unusual adulterant (or mix of adulterants) that are potentially higher-risk to consume unknowingly
- It represents a geographic trend that could influence people who use a certain kind of drug to exercise different/expanded harm reduction measures
- It includes a potentially risky novel substance that is appearing with increasing regularity
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to submit an alert request.
Fentanyl and its analogues are rising in prevalence from coast to coast. Owning and using fentanyl test strips on all pills and powders is critically important at this time. You can purchase test strips through our shop; be certain to read all instructions very carefully and follow them exactly to avoid false positives or negatives.
The DanceSafe Team