Community-led guerrilla drug checking in response to deaths from adulterated MDMA in Victoria, Australia

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Drugs, Habits and Social Policy




School of Medical and Health Sciences




Barratt, M. J., Bright, S. J., & Blackwell, A. R. (2022). Community-led guerrilla drug checking in response to deaths from adulterated MDMA in Victoria, Australia. Drugs, Habits and Social Policy, 23(3), 258-262.



Following deaths and hospitalisations in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, related to the unwitting consumption of a combination of 25C-NBOMe and 4-FA, a community-led unauthorised drug checking service was rapidly established at a subsequent music festival. We aim to demonstrate the value of community-led drug checking, even when conducted in less-than-ideal conditions, by describing this service and reporting on its outcomes.


In all, 131 samples were tested with between 1 and 4 (M = 2.24 and SD = 0.61) reagents (Mandelin, Marquis, Mecke and Simons), and behavioural intentions of service users were reported.


People whose results indicated that the drug tested was what they expected, or was a drug familiar to them, were more likely to report an intention to take the drug compared to those whose results indicated that the drug was not what they had expected. For example, in 11 cases where the expected substance was not identified and novel substances including 2 C-X (including the NBOMe series), methylone, mephedrone, PMA and MXE were indicated, most reported an intention to discard (8/11).

Practical implications:

The guerrilla service appeared to dissuade some people from consuming substances with higher risk profiles. It was also quick to identify substances of concern consistent with the NBOMe/4-FA combination for broader community action. The authors urge governments in Australia and elsewhere to reconsider their opposition to drug checking services, given their utility as vital health services during times of volatile drug market shifts.


While these data are five years old, it has only been in the past year that the Coroners Court of Victoria finalised their report on the deaths associated with this drug outbreak, providing context for the rapid peer response.



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