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Drug quality test celebrates 15 years in operation

An initiative backed by the Vienna police in which officials allow partygoers to hand over illegal drugs so that they can be tested to make sure they don't contain dangerous chemicals is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary.

Every year toxicologists and drug advisers from checkit travel to raves and gigs where they analyse any tablets, pills or other substances handed to them - and give advice on the contents.

They say that because of the constantly new items appearing on the market the service is a vital one.

It was started 15 years ago and in that time has offered around 38,000 counselling sessions attending annually several dozen events where  substances are tested - and warnings given when dangerous.

The initiators say that it is a damage limitation service. Spokeswoman Sonja Grabenhofer said: "If the mountain won't come to Mohammed . . Drug users won't go for counselling sessions therefore the councillors need to go to them."

Co-founder, scientific leader and chemist and toxicologist at the Vienna AKH Rainer Schmid said: "In the beginning of 'checkit!‘ Ecstasy was relatively new. We really didn't know who was taking it and what they were taking."

He said that in the meantime there was a substantial volume of new chemical substances coming onto the market every year and it was vital to be informed on whether any potentially deadly products were in use.

They said that many potentially deadly substances had been identified and removed and also it had been possible to warn people that they were in circulation.

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