Australia Today

Sydney’s First Drug-Checking Service Will Test Injectables

New South Wales’ first drug-checking service will open at Sydney’s supervised injecting room.
Arielle Richards
Melbourne, AU
a new drug-testing pilot in sydney will test illicit substances over four months. photo by 

The Washington Post / Contributor via Getty images.

New South Wales’ first drug-checking service will open at Sydney’s supervised injecting room.

Over the next four months, as part of a research project, existing clients of the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) will be able to test samples of their drugs. 

The first-of-its kind pilot program is offered to about 100 clients who are already registered with the centre, who inject heroin, other opiates and methamphetamines. Participants can opt to have their drugs tested once a week, where a specialist alcohol and drug clinician and an analytical chemist will check the contents of their drugs and offer harm reduction advice.


Launched on Monday, the project is a joint venture by the supervised injecting centre’s operator, the Uniting Church, drug checking research centre The Loop, and the University of New South Wales. 

MSIC’s medical director Dr Marianne Jaunty said the program would potentially help identify new and dangerous drugs on the Australian market. 

She said: "The number of drug alerts in NSW is at an all-time high.”

"We hope this research helps progress the conversation around the state about drug checking as an appropriate and sensible response to help keep people safe and well."

Uniting NSW ACT’s general manager of advocacy Emma Maiden said if the program was able to help clients decide to behave differently because of information about the contents of their drugs, “it’s worth it”.

The drug-checking service’s operators told Guardian Australia that because it’s being offered as part of a research project, it was able to bypass waiting for new laws or changes in government policy. 

The pilot comes after a period of resistance from the NSW government to the introduction of pill testing to the state. In late 2019, a NSW coroner recommended the state introduce pill testing, arguing there was “significant evidence” that “intensive and punitive drug policing operations” were increasing drug-related harm. 


In late October 2023, after the deaths of two young partiers, NSW Premier Chris Minns dismissed calls to implement testing in the state ahead of summer. He argued then the government was not completely opposed to reform but said testing would be looked at in a promised drug summit. 

Minns said pill testing wasn’t a “silver bullet”. 

Four weeks ago, the death of a 23-year-old man at Pitch Music and Arts Festival in Victoria renewed calls for the state’s government to reassess its stance on pill-testing.

“While this Labor government continues to stall, young Victorian lives are being put at risk,” Victorian Greens party spokesperson Aiv Puglielli said in a statement.

Currently, the only fixed-site pill testing service in Australia is Canberra’s CANtest. Earlier this year, the site identified three new recreational substances not previously found in Australia.

In an analysis published in the latest issue of the Drug Testing and Analysis Journal, the authors wrote, “Drug checking services are perhaps one of the most likely places where truly novel products are likely to first present.”

“[They] are situated in an environment where appropriate, prudent advice can be provided, even in scenarios where an agent might not yet be identified,” the authors wrote.

Arielle Richards is the multimedia reporter at VICE Australia, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.