Conscious drug checking
in Vienna

A project worth checking out in the heart of the sixth district in Vienna: Checkit! is a drug-advice center offering integrated drug checking and prevention work. Founded in 1997 at the peak of the Gazometer Raves, it established its drop-in shop homebase ten years later in Gumpendorferstraße 8, 1060 and has been a melting point for information exchange, discussion and support ever since.

The team includes social workers, psychologists, lawyers, pharmacists and chemists devoted to reduce the risks of drug consumption and to provide support in case of problems. It is merit to mention that checkit! does not target people who have a drug abuse problem, but rather those who wish to gain a clearer and more conscious approach to psychoactive substances.

TEDxVienna had the chance to talk with checkit! about their unique project and to catch a glimpse behind the scenes of their work.

Free of judgment. And cost.

Foremost, checkit! neither judges, nor encourages drugs use; It simply provides the information necessary for people to make an informed decisions about their health.  Because in the end, everyone has to decide for themselves what is best for their minds and bodies. Moreover, friends and relatives who seek for a better understanding of their partner’s or friends consumption patterns can visit the homebase as well. They can be contacted in person, via phone call and an encrypted e-mail service. This non-judgemental, humanistic approach to the topic is the core of the project’s success.

Not only are checkit!’s services anonymous and confidential, they are also for free.

Being a state-financed project, it is supported by the Addiction and Drugs Coordination Vienna and the Federal Ministry of Health. In concrete, it is a joint project of the Suchthilfe Wien and the Clinical Institute for medical and chemical laboratory diagnostics, and therefore a vital part of a state-driven system that supports health and safety in the night-life scene. The institutions intention is to reduce the risks of drug consumption by encouraging people to think twice and decide more consciously.

This is why besides the work at the home base, the team investigates in scientific research and studies too. They also provide integrated drug checking at festivals and party events. How?

First, people hand in a very small amount (0,005g) of the a drug; anonymously. After running a thorough chemical analysis, the checkit! team can tell the exact composition of the drug in question: what’s inside and how much. Then, they communicate the level of consumption risk to the people via a coded colour system (white: the drug’s content is as expected, yellow: the risk is higher than on average, red: the team dissuades the person from further consumption). As a part of the integrated drug checking, it is crucial to always guarantee time and space for a conversation about the analysis result and ways to reduce the risks involved.

© Sebastian Somloi for TEDxVienna

© Sebastian Somloi for TEDxVienna

Eventually, checkit! is often invited to speak at conferences on both a regional and an international level. It thereby significantly contributes to a more open and safer discourse on drugs in Vienna and beyond. The same applies to organizations like the Students for Sensible Drugs Policy Austria. Because making psychoactive substances and their effects a taboo leads to misinformation, wrong doses and bad trips you cannot make undone.

Oh, and in case you are reading this and you think you know better…Well, you don’t. Let Johann Hari explain to you why everything you know about addiction is wrong.

Special thanks to checkit! for the inspiring talk and to Sebastian Somloi for the photography&support.

Share this post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *