Manchester University’s student union has launched the initiative to help young people determine whether the drugs they have bought have been mixed with other substances.
The single-use kits, which will be distributed to students from any of the city’s institutions, cost £2.50 and the service is “completely confidential”, the union said on its website.
“A key risk of taking unregulated drugs is that the substance you intend to take could be mixed with other drugs or harmful adulterants,” it added. “One way to reduce this risk is to test your drugs. We are currently piloting single-use test kits, which work by adding a small amount of your drug to a chemical which will change colour depending on the substances it contains.”
The trial is run separately to the University of Manchester and the union said it does not condone the use of illegal drugs.
Yet growing calls for improved measures to make drug-taking safer have seen the uptake of testing kits, which produce a colour reaction that can be compared with an illustrated chart, at universities, clubs and music festivals.
Limitations in the use of the testing kits include the fact that colour reactions can be difficult to determine and that research has shown that users “see what they want to see”.
But student leaders in Manchester believe the trial allows them to uphold their duty to protect students in a “realistic and proactive” way.
“We believe it’s part of our responsibility to look after our student members to make these tests available to students across Manchester,” a union official told the Manchester Evening News. “We will continue to campaign to policy makers to make changes to drugs policy that reflect a more realistic and proactive attitude.”
Other universities which have offered drug testing kits to students in the past include Newcastle and Sussex.