Circular 013/2014: Home Office approved kits for testing controlled substances

This circular provides advice on drug testing kits that have been approved for the purpose of testing substances suspected to be controlled drugs.


The testing of substances suspected to be drugs controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

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This circular provides advice to law enforcement personnel on those drug testing kits that have been approved by the Home Office for the purpose of testing substances suspected to be controlled drugs, according to the terms of Home Office Circular 015/2012. It also sets out the requirements for the provision of training to officers in the use of drug testing devices.

The existing Annexes A & B of Home Office Circular 015/2012 should be destroyed and replaced by the attached revisions.

Any enquiries about this circular should be addressed to the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) at

  • broad subject: crime and disorder
  • sub category: drug offences
  • implementation date: 01/08/2014
  • from: Crime and Policing Group (CPG) – Drugs and Alcohol Unit
  • for more information contact:
  • addressed to: Chief Officers of Police (England and Wales), Chief Crown Prosecutors, Chief Executive of HM Courts & Tribunals Service, Director of Crime, Delivery Directors, Heads of Crime, Cluster Managers, Regional Support Units, Crown Court staff, Magistrates’ Court staff, Clerks to the Justices, Royal Courts of Justice-Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) staff, Lord Chief Justice, President of the Queen’s Bench Division, Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales, Lords Justices of Appeal, Presiding Judges, High Court Judges Queen’s Bench Division, Crown Court Judges, Resident Judges, District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts) Chairmen of the Justices, Council of Circuit Judges, Magistrates’ Association, Sheriff’s Court, National Offender Management Service



  1. Currently there are three types of indicative kit that are approved by the Home Office to identify drugs for evidential purposes: Marquis Reagent kits that rely on colour change, immunoassay kits that provide a line indication, and electronic kits that produce a digital readout. Kits have been approved by the Home Office for use in testing for the following drugs only:
  • heroin
  • morphine
  • amphetamine
  • cocaine
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • ketamine
  • methylmethcathinone (including mephedrone)

in accordance with paragraphs 7-16 of Home Office Circular 015/2012 - Testing of substances suspected to be drugs controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Check the tables for the Home Office approved kits for testing heroin, morphine and amphetamine, cocaine, MDMA, ketamine and methylmethcathinone

  1. Suppliers of other devices who would like their devices to be considered for addition to this list should contact the Home Office by email at The Home Office will arrange for the device to be tested at the supplier’s cost. In considering whether a device should be added to the Home Office approved list, particular attention will be given to its suitability for use by non-scientific staff; clarity of instructions; specificity of results; avoidance of contamination; labelling and packaging; and health and safety.

  2. Home Office approval is subject to periodic renewal and at any time the device is modified. The Home Office must be notified in advance of any changes in the packaging, instructions or composition of the device. Any changes which in the view of the Home Office may affect the efficacy and safety of use will require re-testing at the supplier’s cost. Failure to notify the Home Office of changes will result in approval being withdrawn.

  3. Users should note that the performance of drug testing kits (and particularly electronic devices) can vary. In the interests of tracking performance and highlighting issues police users are asked to inform CAST in the event of a result not matching the drug as stated by the suspect (see paragraph 7 of Home Office Circular 015/2012) or where subsequent forensic analysis provides a different result to that of the drug testing kit. In this circumstance please email with the following information:

  • name
  • force
  • date
  • suspected drug
  • drug testing kit used
  • result



  1. The College of Policing oversees training on drug testing kits, which is in 2 parts.
  • core, assessed training on the theoretical and practical considerations of conducting any drug tests must be completed before any training is carried out on specific kits. This should include the legal environment, and EDIT and drug testing kit processes. This training will be provided by individual forces

  • training on the Home Office approved specific drug testing kits may be provided by private companies, manufacturers or police forces (by staff trained to the manufacturers’ standards). Individual forces may select training providers in each case.

Further information will be on the College of Policing website as soon as possible.

Published 4 August 2014