Drug harm reduction tips to keep in mind this summer

Image, blurred people at a festival

While we advise that not taking drugs is the only way to guarantee safety, we’ve compiled a list of drug harm reduction tips to help you be safer this summer.

Be absolutely sure you know what you’re taking


you take it.

There’s nothing that ruins summer faster than a trip to the medic’s tent because some dickhead’s sold you cathinones instead of MDMA, or spiked your coke with fentanyl. Those ground drugs you just found might not be the score you thought they were. We’ll be checking people’s drugs at events up and down the country this summer, so come and see us.

If you can’t get to one of our drug checking services, you can buy reagent tests from the Hemp Store or Cosmic. They can tell you if your MDMA contains MDMA. They can’t tell you if your MDMA also has things that aren’t MDMA in it like the FTIR spectrometers can, but it’s better than nothing at all.

Reagent tests will only tell you what the strongest substance in your sample is, and can only measure one ingredient.

The trouble is that adulterants like anything in the cathinone family, NBOME, or fentanyl are so potent they need a far lower concentration to be dangerous. This makes them easy to mask with other substances. This will throw off reagent tests. It’s always best to run your substances through one of our spectrometers if you can.

Check the KnowYourStuffNZ latest news page and HighAlert site for dangerous drug alerts. You can also check our pill library to see if we’ve already come across something you’ve bought.

Avoid mixing your substances

Some drugs play well together, some don’t. It’s safest not to mix your substances at all. It’s not the kind of thing you want to roll the dice on because you can wind up in hospital or dead.

Even seemingly innocent combos like illicit substances and alcohol should be avoided.
For example, if you take ketamine while drinking there’s a risk of getting stuck in a K hole, vomiting, and choking to death. If you use cannabis while drinking there’s an increased risk of paranoia and depression. (Basically don’t mix alcohol with anything, it’s a shit time)

TripSit has a brilliant interaction chart that’s also available as an app that you can double check the level of harm from any potential interactions you’re thinking of taking.

If you’re on antidepressants or antianxiety medication (especially MAOIs) or Tramadol, we strongly advise you don’t take anything other than your prescribed medication. Mixing psychoactives with these medications is incredibly dangerous, and people have died from it.

Start low, go slow, especially on your first time

If you’re taking a new substance, or are taking substances for the first time, it’s always good to go cautiously. Even if you’re a seasoned psychonaut we advise that starting with half your dose and waiting at least an hour to see how you feel.

Things to watch out for are:

  • Confusion
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headache
  • Changes in blood pressure and/or temperature
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tremor
  • Loss of muscle control or twitching muscles
  • Shivering and goosebumps
  • Heavy sweating

Party with people you trust, and have a sober person

If you’re in an altered state you are vulnerable. You’re more likely to say yes to things you might ordinarily say no to. Make sure the people you’re with will respect your boundaries. With hypersocial drugs like MDMA it’s a good idea to set down ground rules of what you’re comfortable with before you ingest.

Keep in mind that consent obtained under the influence of a substance is not legally viewed as consent.

Having a sober person on hand if anything goes wrong is always important. Someone to remind you that gravity is real and you can’t actually fly from one stage to the next is a good idea. You might need them to call an ambulance if you decide to give flying a crack anyway.

Plan a safe drive home

Driving home from a festival in the sticks is one of the biggest risks. Make sure you are sober and well-rested before that marathon mission to get back home. Share the driving if you can.

Come and see us in the KnowYourStuffNZ drug checking tent!

We’re always keen to say hi and make sure you’re being responsible hedonists, so pop your head in and bring us something to run through the FTIR.

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