Cathinones still a concern for 2018 festival season

The media has been making much of our alert that there may be MDMA out there in higher doses than usual. One thing that’s being somewhat under-reported is the fact that we are also seeing substitution of MDMA for cathinones at roughly the same rate as last season.

What this means is that approximately 1 in 5 samples we’ve tested so far that were supposed to be MDMA, are something completely different. The thing they have mostly turned out to be is one or another of the cathinones (bath salts is the name that seems to be sticking for these).

Cathinones we’ve found so far this year:

  • n-ethylpentylone
  • n-ethylbuphedrone
  • methylone
  • 4-methylethcathinone
  • methcathinone
  • one example of a cathinone not yet listed in the database that we also encountered last season. This one is completely new and we have no idea what it is.

There is no way of knowing by looking at a sample whether it’s MDMA or one of these potentially risky substitutes. Even if reagents detect a cathinone, there is no way of discerning between them without further testing.

One of the biggest risks with cathinones is that people are usually expecting MDMA, and when they don’t get the feeling they are expecting, they will often assume they have a low-dose or ‘dud’ pill, and then take more. With any drug this can be risky, but with unknown cathinones it’s even more so because they all have different active and toxic doses, so taking extra could be the difference between disappointment and a trip to the hospital, or worse.

Please, never assume you have what you think you have – test before you ingest. It could save your life.

More basic info about cathinones at the NZ Drug Foundation website – please note that we have seen cathinones in all sorts of formats so don’t assume that if it’s not a white powder, you’re safe.

For specific information about individual substances we recommend ErowidTripSit, and PsychonautWiki.

[EDIT] Something else we should mention is that we have also found our first sample that was mostly cathinone (n-ethylpentylone) but with a tiny amount of MDMA in it as well.

Because the colour of the MDMA reaction in the standard Marquis and Mandelin reagent tests is dark and happens fast, the cathinone reaction (yellow Marquis, muddy brown/green Mandelin) would be very hard, if not impossible to see.  Our sample reagent tested as MDMA only.
 
We suspect the MDMA may have been added deliberately in order to baffle reagent tests, as it appears to be present in such a tiny amount that it would not affect the user experience.
 
This is concerning because we know many people, in the absence of public access to spectrometer testing, are using reagents to try and keep themselves safe. Be careful out there, folks.
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