Survey of KYSNZ clients shows that users of drug checking services take harm reduction advice on board

by Andrea Knox, Evaluation Consultant

KnowYourStuffNZ is driven by evidence. For the last few years we’ve been recording our drug checking results, reporting those results publicly, and using them to improve our processes and advocacy.

But while we have a lot of evidence about the substances we find and the decisions people make about those substances, we don’t have a lot of data about who we’re reaching. What kinds of people use our services, how do they feel about it, and what experiences have they had with drugs previously?

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This year, to answer those questions, we surveyed people while they queued for testing. Many thanks to our super-smart volunteer who suggested this approach!

We ran a 10-question survey on a tablet using SurveyAnyplace (which has an offline mode that ran seamlessly, even way out the back of wherethefuckarewe). We also developed what we called a “stories box”, into which people could post handwritten descriptions of their experiences with drugs and drug checking. Both activities were optional and anonymous.

What did we find out? You can see our full report on the Our Results page . Here are some key points.

  • The people we reach are young, but not as young as you might assume. Half were under 25, half over 25, and one in 20 were 45 or older.
  • We are reaching new people – 82% of our clients saw us for the first time this year.
  • We are reaching people who have no prior experience with drug health or harm reduction services – 89% said that KnowYourStuffNZ was their first contact with such a service.
  • A worryingly high proportion of people – 75% of our clients, have had experiences with taking drugs that were not what they were supposed to be. Experiences range from unpleasant: “stayed awake to long”, to very serious: “Ambulance had to be called”.
  • We seem to be making a longer term difference to how people approach drugs. 87% of people who had previously used our services said that their approach to taking drugs had changed as a result. People said that they were more motivated to test drugs and less willing to take risks. Interestingly, people didn’t say that they were unaware of drug-associated risks before seeing us. No-one said: I just didn’t know drugs could be so risky! Their comments show that they were already aware of risk, but thought they had to accept this when choosing to take drugs. KnowYourStuffNZ has demonstrated that risks can be mitigated and don’t have to be accepted.
  • There is a great deal of support for drug checking among the people who use our services. We already knew that because they tell us this when we meet them, but it was lovely to see so many positive comments about our work and calling for greater support of drug checking in New Zealand.
  • And then there was this comment, which moved KnowYourStuffNZ’s Managing Director to tears and made us realise that all the hard work was worth it: “You saved someone’s life tonight”.
KnowYourStuffNZ is a not-for-profit social enterprise funded entirely by donations from the community. If you value our work, please donate.

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