Samples will be gathered by the Kosmicare associaiton which runs a permanent drug testing service in Lisbon and has mobile laboratories operating in festivals

Hair drug testing to start in Portugal this week

Pilot project designed to show exactly what kind of substances are being consumed

A pilot project is starting in Portugal this week designed to show authorities exactly what kind of substances people are consuming.

Trailed by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the idea isn’t to prosecute people. It is more to understand what new substances are finding their way into the market – in order to be properly prepared.

The plan is for ‘drug checking’ to take place at the various music festivals scheduled this summer.

Italy and France are also involved in the initiative, writes Expresso.

It will rely on volunteers submitting hair samples, and then filling out a questionnaire.

Says EMCDDA, “The hair sample is sent for analysis, stored anonymously and destroyed after the study. The purpose is to compare what participants think they consumed against the evidence revealed through the chemical analysis of the hair samples. The first sampling will be carried out at events in Spring and Summer 2022 and results reported later this year”.

Talking to Expresso, study coordinator in Portugal João Matias said: “Everything that we consume is registered in our hair, as it is in our blood, saliva, urine and other biological material (…) Our hair grows an average of one centimetre each month (…) If the hair sample taken is 10 cms long, we will be able to see consumption of the past 10 months”.


The initiative comes as EMCDDA has warned that every week new psychoactive substances are being sold and consumed in Europe, meaning that illegal drug manufacturing is on the rise – and consequently so too are the potential risks to people’s health.

As well as “traditional” drugs, EMCDDA has noted the growth in production of novel narcotics like cathinone – which gives effects similar to those of cocaine and ecstasy. According to Expresso, apprehensions of cathinone in Europe in 2020 “more than tripled” those of the year before.

“To understand the consumption of new substances is very difficult for people studying this phenomenon”, João Matias told the paper. They are often sold “as bath salts or incense, and very often they don’t even have a street name (…) They are known only by their chemical formulas, and users cannot identify them”.