This was the summer of terrible drugs

KnowYourStuffNZ drug checking service was in huge demand this summer festival season. We doubled the number of tests from last summer and attended more events than ever before. KnowYourStuffNZ checked 2,744 samples at 27 events between April 2020 and March 2021.

Our annual testing report and client survey have now been released. What we found this summer was disappointing – only 68% of all the samples checked at events this summer were the substance that people expected.

There’s a one-third chance that your MDMA wasn’t MDMA

The big concern this season was people who presumed they had MDMA. In previous years, Last year, 90% of what people brought to us as “MDMA” turned out to actually test as MDMA. This year, only 66% of the “MDMA” was actually MDMA. Instead, our testing mostly found eutylone, more than 350 samples.

Eutylone is a stimulant that is much more dangerous than MDMA and has caused severe and adverse reactions. We published alerts about eutylone in December, right at the start of the season. Since then, we have heard back from so many people that they chose not to take eutylone as a result of our warnings, our testing, or their own testing.

Overall, 68 percent of people whose substances turned out to be not as presumed stated that they would not take the substance. This is the highest rate of people changing their minds about taking a substance since KnowYourStuffNZ began checking drugs at events.

You’re making better decisions about your drugs

KnowYourStuffNZ’s overall goal is to promote less risky behaviour when it comes to drugs. We surveyed our clients and found that:

  • 95 percent agreed that they are more likely to get their drugs tested before taking them.
  • 51 percent agreed that they were less likely to mix drugs.
  • 45 percent agreed that they were more likely to take a smaller amount

This is how harm reduction should work – drug checking gives people the information they need to make safer choices, and helps people become more informed. A big change this year was the number of people who carried out their own drug checking – home testing kits sold out over the party season as people heard our warnings about eutylone and took their own steps to inform themselves.

We might be legal, but we don’t have the resources to be everywhere that needs us, and frankly, it sucks.

Alongside positive behaviour changes by our clients, this summer also saw positive changes from the Government, with the legalisation of drug checking. KnowYourStuffNZ has been appointed as Aotearoa’s only licensed provider of drug checking services.

What’s not so positive is the demand being placed upon us as drug checking grows.

Health Minister Andrew Little has said that he wants drug-checking services to be widely available, across the community, all year round. We do too, Andrew. There’s a big job to be done here. This year we did that job at more festivals, student events, and public clinics than ever before.

Even so, the number of people that want to stay safe and get their drugs tested is far more than we can serve. We had long wait times at most of our events, up to two hours in some cases. While some clients are willing to wait that long, we know that some people won’t. Instead, they’ll take risks that could have been avoided if we had more testing capacity.

As well as working at more events this year than ever before, we also turned down more events than ever before. This summer we had to say “no” to more festivals than we could say “yes” to.

The work we can do depends upon our resources. This year we doubled our workload. We think that’s pretty good for a volunteer organisation. We are managing to grow rapidly but not fast enough to meet the demand.

We have achieved this growth without any public funding. We’ve been funded by generous donations and fees from events but that only goes so far.

If the Minister really wants us to get the job done then we ask him to put his money where his mouth is and provide public funding for drug checking services.

Read the 2020-2021 testing report
Read the 2020-2021 survey report

The smell of an oily rag that KnowYourStuffNZ runs on is made of donations. Please donate to help us continue helping people make better choices about their drugs.

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