ALERT: White powder in clear capsules containing unknown cathinone C86

UPDATE Saturday 19.00: After more analysis we believe this is not n-ethylpentylone as previously stated. It appears to be an unknown cathinone that we’re calling “C86”. The harm reduction advice remains the same – treat with caution. This substance is so new that we do not know of the health risks.

Original alert: N-ethylpentylone found in powder obtained as MDMA

KnowYourStuffNZ tested pills in Dunedin today and found a particularly dangerous substance called n-ethylpentylone an unknown cathinone that we’re calling “C86”.
Two samples of white powder in clear capsules from different sources were tested and each contained a mixture of n-ethylpentylone and ethylone this single substance. We have seen this substance previously at a summer event in the North Island.

N-ethylpentylone C86 is a stimulant from the cathinone family, also called “bath salts”. It may produce short-lived euphoria followed by a long period of overstimulation including racing heart, high blood pressure, anxiety, overheating, and inability to sleep for up to 36 hours. Cathinones have been associated with deaths overseas and hospitalisations in New Zealand. Because of the high redose compulsion and low active dose, it is very easy to overdose. You can read more about n-ethylpentylone at our website. We called it “this summer’s crap drug“. We don’t know what C86 is exactly, other than that it’s a cathinone and fairly similar in chemical structure to n-ethylpentylone.

The identified pills are medium sized clear capsules containing a chalky white powder that clumps together.

When tested with Marquis reagent the samples turned orange and with Mandelin they turned dark orange. These colour changes indicate a cathinone.

Testing with the more reliable FT-IR spectroscopy suggests these pills contain a mixture of of n-ethylpentylone and ethylone an unknown cathinone which we are calling C86 that is similar to n-ethylpentylone. The amount of n-ethylpentylone C86 present may vary between pills. Alternatively, this may be a new and unknown cathinone. Yup, it’s a new one alright.

It is possible that These pills have spread throughout New Zealand, being seen by KnowYourStuffNZ from one of the country to the other, therefore any substance that looks similar to this should be treated as dangerous regardless of your location.

N-ethylpentylone has been detected in powders and pills of various colours. In total, approximately 15% of “MDMA” tested over New Years was found to contain n-ethylpentylone.

Please approach all untested substances with extreme caution. C86 has not, to our knowledge, been seen before and there is no information about safety, dosage, risks, and interactions with other drugs. We recommend avoiding this.
– safest of all, do not take it
– if consuming, start small, start slow – take a third or less, and wait at least an hour before having more
– do not snort or inject
– do not mix with other substances, including alcohol
– do not take alone


If you think you may have inadvertently consumed n-ethylpentylone a cathinone and are concerned, please contact your nearest medical service and be honest about what you believe you have taken.

KnowYourStuffNZ is a not-for-profit social enterprise funded entirely by donations from the community. If you value our work, please donate.

KnowYourStuffNZ’s submission on the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill

On the reclassification of AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB as Class A drugs

Reclassification of substances to increase penalties associated with their use and supply has historically failed to reduce either use or harm.  In this case, because the community most affected by these substances is already marginalised, the reclassification is likely to hurt them more, by increasing stigma, making it harder to seek treatment, and increasing the negative effects of any convictions associated with drug use.

The law that this classification system supports is inadequate and the classification system itself is flawed, therefore it is our view that adding further substances to this is an inappropriate response to drug harm.  We do not support this amendment, and would suggest that a full review of the Misuse of Drugs Act to align it with evidence and the government’s intended health-based approach to drugs would be more effective.

 On discretion around prosecutions for use and possession of all drugs

While moving from a presumption of prosecution to a presumption of non-prosecution with an onus on prosecutors to prove public interest is an improvement on the current situation, we have some concerns. Our main concern is that police discretion has historically been applied unequally, and that the benefits of this change will not reach those who most need it -the poor and marginalised who are currently subjected to the harshest policing.

Additionally, it is our view that the role of the police is to enforce the law, not to interpret it.  Therefore, the law they are required to enforce should be clear enough to be applied equally to all situations. Police should not be required to exercise discretion.

If drugs are an issue of public health, they should be clearly treated as such by the law. This amendment goes some way to acknowledging this, but should only be considered as an interim measure until a full review of the MoDA is implemented.

We support this amendment with reservations.

On the new temporary drug class

We do not consider that the addition of a new class to a flawed system will reduce either use or harm associated with new psychoactive substances. Historically when new drugs have been classified, manufacturers have responded by making more new drugs.  This has led to increased harm as the new substances are generally more potent and less well researched. The new class will make classification faster, however that will most likely only encourage a faster cycle of new drugs emerging.

As an organisation that exists to address the harms associated with illicit drugs and which came into being in a large part because of the dangers of new psychoactive substances, we cannot support a system that encourages the development of more new drugs.

We do not support this amendment, and again recommend that the MoDA undergo a full review to refocus drug legislation away from the minutiae of criminalisation and instead to enable pragmatic and public health focused harm reduction measures.

KnowYourStuffNZ is a not-for-profit social enterprise funded entirely by donations from the community. If you value our work, please donate.

 

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?

n-ethylpentylone

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.

Where to from here?

Early in the New Year, Police Minister Hon Stuart Nash, speaking about drug checking at festivals, said “I think they’re a fantastic idea and should be installed at all our festivals.” While this was met with cautious optimism from those seeking reform, not everyone was celebrating. An editorial in the NZ Herald raised the concern that “Testing drugs for safety can send the wrong message”. Nearly everyone agreed that we need to understand the implications before proceeding.

As the leaders of KnowYourStuffNZ, the organisation providing drug safety testing at music festivals, we would like to reassure everyone that few young people care about what message the government, or the NZ Herald, is sending about drug use. Festival-goers will continue to use drugs regardless.

KnowYourStuffNZ sends a message that festival-goers do care about, with every test we perform. The message: we don’t want people to die and we trust our clients to make safer decisions with the information we give them. People listen to our message and the results from our work are clear. When people have drugs that are contaminated or more dangerous than expected, the majority will not take them and many will destroy their drugs in front of us. For an endorsement our results, ask the medics at festivals we attend. Every single one will say how thankful they are for our service and how obvious it is that we are reducing drug-related harms.

Moralising doesn’t change people’s behaviour. Respect, useful information, and a non-judgemental stance does.

Despite their qualms, the NZ Herald rightly asks the important question – “Exactly how are these drug-testing stations at music festivals going to work?” We’ve been asking ourselves this question too and we look forward to open and evidence-based consideration of the following matters:

The legal situation for testing services needs to be clarified. For instance, we only require a tiny amount (much less than a pill) for testing. It’s never returned to the client as that would be the crime of supply. We’re fine with that. However, we would like to be allowed to be in possession of a substance so that we could take a sample away for laboratory analysis. Currently we can’t do that. We have already seen one new cathinone this summer that we could not identify using our field FT-IR spectrometer. Using a fully-equipped lab, it could have been identified.

The liability of testing services needs to be set. For instance, we never describe a sample as “safe”, as every substance has risks (except maybe the pill that was mostly toothpaste). We never describe a sample as “not contaminated”, as every testing method has limits on what it will detect. We already provide warnings about the specific drugs identified and advice on safer behaviour as a part of the testing process. Despite this, there will still be harms from drug use, even for people who have used a testing service, just are there are for any health service.

Our service and other harm reduction developments should be linked. The Government is introducing a drug early warning system, where Police, Customs, and District Health Boards provide alerts about dangerous drugs. We’ve been doing this for several years now – our January warning on n-ethylpentylone reached over 80,000 people. So how will this system work? Is everyone working in this space willing to share information? We hope so.

The required quality of testing services should be decided. We don’t want a repeat of the methamphetamine scam where any cowboy could set up testing. Right now there is no accreditation for testing services, and no formal training or qualifications for volunteers. For example, what equipment is suitable? We think that the laser spectrometers used by police at Rhythm and Vines are too likely to give false readings, whereas the FT-IR spectrometers we use are much better at distinguishing substances and mixtures. However, our spectrometers cost more than twice as much, so we can see the temptation to use cheaper equipment.

There’s also a discussion to be had about how this is funded. Currently, we are funded entirely by donations. This isn’t sustainable if, as the Police Minister Stuart Nash suggests, testing should be at all large summer festivals. That’s a major scale-up. We have been lucky to be gifted the use of our testing equipment by the New Zealand Drug Foundation, but a spectrometer runs to $50,000. That’s not possible for a volunteer-run organisation. There are a range of business models possible, from public funding as for the NZ Needle Exchange Programme, support from the Criminal Proceeds Fund, to festivals paying and on-charging in the ticket price just as they do for the portaloos. What funding model will be the best fit with this service? We don’t know yet.

To be fair, drug safety testing is an evolving field with different models used in different countries. We are working with groups in the UK and Australia to develop best practice and are happy to learn from groups in Europe who have been testing drugs for nearly twenty years.

We look forward to discussing these questions as the Government puts in place legislation to enable us to operate openly. It is in everyone’s interests to make sure that drug-testing stations at music festivals do work.

KnowYourStuffNZ is a not-for-profit social enterprise funded entirely by donations from the community. If you value our work, please donate.

Suspected high-dose MDMA pills tested by KnowYourStuffNZ 2018/2019 season

KnowYourStuffNZ has found pills containing potentially dangerous high doses of MDMA during the 2018/2019 festival season. These pills were found at events throughout New Zealand.

They should be approached with caution. Users are advised that the only way to guarantee safety is to not take them. For those who do choose to take them, our recommendation is to only take a third of a pill at most, and wait at least an hour before considering taking any more.

These pills have been tested to contain MDMA and a variety of fillers. No other psychoactives have been detected in these, despite anecdotal reports that they also contain ketamine.

A common dose of MDMA is around 80-120 milligrams, depending upon a user’s body weight. Some of the pills that KnowYourStuffNZ have tested this summer contained up to four doses in one pill.

Taking too much MDMA can result in a very unpleasant experience, health risks, and sometimes even death. If you or someone you know has taken one of these pills and experiences dizziness and vomiting, a sharp rise in body temperature, muscle cramping, heart palpitations, seizures, or unconsciousness, seek medical attention immediately.

Please note that the amount of MDMA present is an estimate only as our technology cannot directly measure dosage or purity. The spectrometer can provide a rough percentage of MDMA content in a sample and we use this combined with the weight of the pill to reach these estimates. The estimated dosage should be treated as an indication only and we recommend always erring on the side of caution.

Suspected high dose pills include:

Purple Defqon

Purple/pink, round, logo of Defqon festival one side only

Weight: 320mg

Estimated to contain 150-200mg MDMA

Defqon IMG_20190222_164253 balanced sheared

Colour and size reference chart
(1 square= 1cm2)
Pink Porsche

Bright pink, shield shape, Porsche logo one side

Weight: 350mg

Estimated to contain 200-250mg MDMA

PP example pic
Pink Maple Leaf

Pink, Canadian maple leaf shape, ‘D2’ on one side, ‘ICON’ on the other

Weight: 330mg

Estimated to contain 200-300mg MDMA

Pink Maple leaf Icon side - Copy

Pink Maple leaf D2 side - Copy

Yellow Rolex

Bright yellow, Rolex crown logo shape, crown stamp one side

Weight: 350mg

Estimated to contain 200-300mg MDMA

No photo available
Green/grey Skull

Green and/or grey, unusual cylindrical shape, skull stamped on one end, crown on the other

Weight: 600mg

Estimated to contain 400mg MDMA

No photo available
Purple Tomorrowland

Purple pill, Tomorrowland logo

Weight: 470mg

Estimated to contain 200-300mg MDMA

No photo available
Grey Pharaoh

Blue/grey/purple, (shape?), Egyptian head on one side, “Warning, 240mg” on other.

Weight: 500mg

Estimated to contain 200-300mg MDMA

No photo available
Blue or Yellow Visa

Blue or yellow  pill, rectangular with rounded edges, Visa logo

Reported as high dose but no weight or content estimate available. Approach with caution.

No photo available

KnowYourStuffNZ is a not-for-profit social enterprise funded entirely by donations from the community. If you value our work, please donate.