In Linköping, a city of 140,000 in the south-east, Brukarföreningen (the Swedish Drug Users Union) had already been handing out clean needles free of charge, which is done in six municipalities around the country. Now the organization in Linköping has become the first in the country to distribute tests that can determine if intravenous drugs bought on the street contain added chemicals or drugs that might pose health risks.
"It's not about encouraging anyone. It's about making it as safe as possible for those who take heroin or whatever you're taking," said Robert Sanderö, the chairman of Brukarföreningen in Linköping, speaking with Swedish Radio's local channel in Östergötland. He said that "dirty" drugs were common and could include Fentanyl or Benzodiazepine, which he said were dangerous additives.
The tests consists of a liquid-filled glass capsule, in which a tiny amount of the drug is placed. A color chart helps the user decide if the drugs are diluted in a way that indicates a health risk.
"If we take heroin then it's very good that these tests exist so you can see if it's mixed with Benzodiazepine or something else dangerous, which can stop you from breathing," said Johan, a 33-year-old drug user who told the reporter that he injects every day and uses the organization's free needles.
Brukarföreningen was formed in 2002 and maintains offices in cities around Sweden. On its website the organization says it represents drug users and works to combat the stigmatization and improve the care that addicts receive.
"It's important to know what the drugs are cut with," said Berne Stålenkrantz, the chairman and founder of Brukarföreningen, speaking with Radio Sweden. "you've heard stories about heroin being cut with rat poison."
If you pay a lot of money and you're addicted, would you really get rid of drugs that you found out were tainted?
"Maybe not, but you have a choice. If it's cut with something you don't want to shoot up, you have a choice. It's better to know what's in the drug than not so you know what consequences it has," said Stålenkrantz.