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A new approach to illicit drug testing harm reduction efforts. 

Thesis Project       20 Weeks             

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Illicit drug usage in the U.S. has steadily been on the rise in the past twenty years – and so have drug-related overdoses and deaths. In 2020 overdoses cause the loss of over 81,000 lives and cost the U.S. healthcare system $11 billion.

Image by camilo jimenez

Most Affected Population 

Illicit drug usage is highest among people in their late teens through mid-20s.

The video shows all the tools required to complete a standard drug test strip. Each strip tests for only one cutting agent. 

Current Testing Methods 

Participants tested a fentanyl test strip and spoke about the challenges with the instructions and process.  

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"It is good to know this is out there, but it's not practical"

-User # 1

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"The instructions are so confusing, how am I suppose to know these measurements?"

-User # 2

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"I got a false positive on aspirin, that is concerning"

-User # 3

Participants are actual drug users and asked for their identity to be kept anonymous.

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Medical Equipment 

Medical equipment often has smooth surface transitions, soft corners, and a limited color palette. 

Image by Abigail Lynn
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Colored Lights

Colorful blue and pink gradient lights are popular at clubs and music events.

Design Language

Loop borrows from the visual language of medical equipment to communicate authority and trustworthiness while also appropriating the blue and pink color scheme often seen in music and club venues to allow it to feel like it belongs in the environment. 

Loop is designed to fit into current behaviors. Bathroom placement also allows for this publicly accessible device, to be accessed in a more private area of venues. 

Design Context

According to a study done in the Netherlands the majority of trips to the restroom in clubs are drug-related.

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Early concepts focused around an improved version of the test strip; as I began to think about how the form could affect the social aspect and normalization of testing, I began thinking of larger communal access items (stations, booths. etc.). Ultimately, as the project developed, I determined a smaller, more private, but still public accessible station was the best solution, choosing a curved form and integrating the visual language of medical equipment to create the station.  


Initially, the station prototypes were vertical; however, during user testing, I realized a horizontal format would perform more effectively to make the device more accessible and align with ADA guidelines.


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Final form 

Similar to a hand dryer, Loop is instilled and hard-wired onto the bathroom wall, using anti-vandalism bolts to secure it in place. (Click)  The eye level is 52" inches above the floor, following ADA guidelines.

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Loop had a camera under the display that tracks hand movement. Once positioned correctly the testing process will start. 

Testing Process and Tech. 

Loop utilizes near future electronic nose technology, housed and protected by the plastic casing, to analyze the molecular structure of the substance's smell – literally sniffing out danger.

Safe Disposal 

The medical waste disposal unit, when closed, lies flush to the machine. When open, The design, similar to a mailbox, isolates the disposal try from the waste storage unit, which is housed in the back of the station and accessible only by key.

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Leveraging Data For Future Efforts 

Illicit substances use is understudied, making it hard for states and the federal government to understand how to approach designing solutions. In response Loop anonymously collects results and provides a report to local governments. 

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