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    Rapid Analysis of Drugs (RAD)

    Rapid Analysis of Drugs (RAD) is a statewide drug checking program available to Maryland Syringe Service Program (SSP) participants.  

    Access reports here when available.

    RAD addresses 3 major goals:

    1. ​Improve the understanding of the Maryland drug market landscape

    2. Empower people who use drugs with knowledge about the drug supply to help inform their decisions and reduce risk​

    3. Provide critical information about new and emerging trends in the drug supply

    Routinely returned paraphernalia are sampled at SSPs and submitted to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for testing using Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry (DART-MS) technology. ​

    Click here to find an SSP that participates in RAD near you!​

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    The Rapid Analysis of Drugs (RAD) program tests routine paraphernalia voluntarily provided by Maryland Syringe Services Program (SSP) participants in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Testing results are provided back to SSPs and the participant who submitted the sample. Aggregate data also helps to inform overdose prevention efforts with various local and statewide public health partners.​

    Since October 2021, over 1,000 samples have been tested among 14 SSPs in 12 jurisdictions. 


    The MDH Center for Harm Reduction Services (CHRS) sought a way to incorporate drug checking into Maryland’s overdose response strategy after experiencing a record number of fatal overdoses in 2020 and 2021. Growing evidence shows that drug checking services are an effective overdose prevention strategy and can alter behavioral intentions of people who use drugs.

    RAD was implemented in October of 2021 through a partnership between CHRS and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST is a federal physical science laboratory housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce. RAD uses Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry (DART-MS) technology to analyze the composition trace amounts of street drugs. 

    The legal framework for RAD is based in Maryland Health-General Article §24-901 - §24-909.


      (a)    A Program staff member, Program volunteer, or Program participant may not be arrested, charged, or prosecuted for violating § 5–601, § 5–619, § 5–620, or § 5–902(c) or (d) of the Criminal Law Article for possessing or distributing controlled paraphernalia or drug paraphernalia whenever the possession or distribution of the controlled paraphernalia or drug paraphernalia is a direct result of the employee’s, volunteer’s, or participant’s activities in connection with the work of a Program authorized under this subtitle.

     (b)    Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, a Program staff member, Program volunteer, or Program participant is not immune from criminal prosecution for any activities not authorized or approved by a Program.

    How It Works

    RAD allows participants of Maryland SSPs to have used paraphernalia tested for drug composition. A trained SSP staff member wipes the paraphernalia and completes a webform with the participant. Only a trace amount of sample is needed for testing. The webform does not include any personal identifiers and is securely visible to CHRS and SSP staff. Collection setting (onsite, mobile unit, street outreach) varies by SSP - to find one near you, check out this guide.  The wipe is mailed to NIST, where it is tested using DART-MS. CHRS shares results with SSP, and the SSP staff are responsible for sharing the results back to the participant who submitted the sample. 

    ​Contact Us​

    Maggie Rybak, Program Manager 


    Jasmine Lopes, Epidemiologist 


    ​​RAD Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)