Fentanyl overdose crisis
Mukhina Victoria - Shutterstock

Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) HarmCheck technology has received $305,000 from the provincial government to support set up costs, site upgrade and research staff. 

HarmCheck, a ‘high-throughput paper spray mass spectrometry’, provides rapid, sensitive testing as a harm-reduction measure to help reduce illicit drug poisonings.

“I am grateful to the team at Vancouver Island University and proud to support a homegrown solution that adds another tool in our response to the drug-poisoning crisis” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. 

“The project announced today has the potential to be replicated in communities across the province.”

HarmCheck detects substances in drug samples such as fentanyl, carfentanil, benzodiazepines and etizolam. Not only does it detect these substances in only 1 to 2 minutes, it only requires a small sample to deliver highly sensitive and accurate results. 

“We are grateful to the Province for funding this life-saving technology that has been proven in the lab to be extremely effective in measuring substances in illicit drugs,” said Chris Gill, professor, Vancouver Island University. 

“With this technology, we can let people know what substances are in their drugs and, more importantly, how much of certain substances are present. This has the potential to support and boost harm-reduction strategies and save lives.”

The operation of HarmCheck is a collaboration between VIU and the Victoria-based Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project, which provides free and confidential drug-checking services at 1802 Cook Street. 

The service is available in-person from noon to 7 p.m. daily. 

To date, almost 2,000 samples have been tested for people in Victoria.

Subscribe to the Victoria Buzz newsletter to receive the latest news, events and more directly to your inbox. Every day.