Clubs closed but parties continue: The Leeds students campaigning for safe drug use in lockdown

Harriet Purbrick, of the Students for Sensible Drugs Policy Society, explores how, even with the clubs closed, drug testing is as necessary as ever.

With clubs closed and festivals cancelled due to the pandemic, opportunities for people to test their drugs are limited. However, recreational drug continues amongst students. Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) are working to ensure that those who choose to use drugs stay safe as lockdowns and curfews push drugs into homes.

To reduce the risk of harm from taking a drug, testing is always the first step. It’s self-explanatory that if you know exactly what you’re taking you’ll be able find out dosages, combinations to avoid, and side effects. Stories of cocaine being mis-sold as methamphetamine (speed), or even caffeine are commonplace in Leeds, meanwhile the drugs testing service The Loop, working at festivals and clubs has been able to identify specific mismatches and particularly dangerous pills. MDMA has been mis-sold as 2C-B, which has hallucinogenic properties, and also as Pentylone, which can keep users up for 36 hours and has been associated with severe paranoia and anxiety.

Whilst clubs remain shut, vital drug testing services like The Loop are unable to continue their work on-site. On top of this, the recreational drug consultants, Neurosight, believe that Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions may be encouraging young people to engage in riskier drug use. In all forms, drugs are an escape from reality. The more challenging and monotonous reality becomes, the greater the need for escape becomes.

And in practical terms, the restrictions on pubs and bars make recreational drug use a more viable alternative. It can be hard to reserve a table, and the 10pm curfew pushes people back into their homes during the usual party hours. However, there’s a false sense of security that comes with the comfort of your own home.

Without a visible presence encouraging drug users to test their drugs, we fear that drug users will be less likely to test their drugs. That’s why SSDP have teamed up with Reagent Tests UK (, a home testing service that uses reagent tests to ensure you know which drug you’re taking.

The kits are easy to use. Doing more tests with different reagents increases the accuracy of the response. Reagent Tests UK provide clear instructions on their website.

Go to for 15% off drug testing kits with the discount code ‘SSDPLeeds’

Reagent testing kits won’t give you as accurate a response as a lab test. They won’t, for example, be able to identify which strain the drug is. However, they only require a very small amount, only 3mg or so to get a response. This means that the testing process is probably cheaper than lab testing services which ask you to send off much larger quantities.

The detailed grid reagent provide to help you identify your drugs

Go to for 15% off drug testing kits with the discount code ‘SSDPLeeds’

To get involved with SSDP, follow us on Facebook: ‘SSDP Leeds – Students for Sensible Drug Policy’