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Apparently our results are news!

When we published the final results from our testing data on Sunday, we were not expecting much media interest. After all, the numbers haven’t changed that much since July, when we first published our preliminary results. However, we did attract some attention. Here is a roundup:

VICE: These are the drugs appearing at New Zealand festivals. A nice summary of the results and associated concerns and our pick of the bunch for accuracy. They spoke with us at length before publishing this.

Stuff: Drug tests at festivals find dangerous new varieties posing as well known pills. Considerably better than the average Stuff article and bonus points for consulting both us and the NZ Drug Foundation.

95bFM: They know what you took last summer. Bcast in which we discuss our findings and our concerns about emerging substances for the upcoming festival season. Short but effective, and not sensationalist.

Newshub: Kiwi MDMA and LSD users being conned – study. Newshub, I am disappoint. Not only is KYSNZ a service not a study, they ripped all their info straight off our website without talking to us at all, and didn’t consult us before using one of our charts.

They also state that people are buying their drugs at the events where they are tested, from evil drug dealers out to dupe people for a fast buck. This may well happen sometimes but we do not collect information about where people obtain their samples, so this assumption is pure conjecture. Anecdotally, we think it’s more likely that many people obtain their drugs prior to entering an event, a process immortalised in the 90s by UK band Pulp as Sorted for Es and whizz (or bath salts and amphetamine as the case may be).

It appears that none of the media so far has cottoned on to one of the most important points – that when confronted with the news that their sample isn’t what they think it is, over half of people then choose not to take it. I guess that’s not dramatic enough…

I suggest at least talking to us before publishing articles about our work. It really does make for better articles.

Final results for 2016/2017 now available

After a massive effort from the team and a rerun of a number of spectra to capture database updates, we are now able to publish our final results for the 2016/2017 season.


This year’s emerging substance group of concern at events is the cathinone family, a group of related substances that are often substituted for MDMA.   A particular worry is n-ethylpentylone, which we found at every event to which we took the spectrometer.  N-ethylpentylone appeared on the illicit market in mid-2016 and its physiological and toxicological effects have not yet been characterised, making it extremely risky to ingest.  Additionally, we found two distinct new cathinones that have not yet been identified in the TICTAC database, and have not been seen by other drug checking organisations overseas.

Good news is that we found fewer samples of NBOMe substituted for LSD, however it is still around and extreme caution is advised.   We are aware that GHB is making a comeback in popularity, although the only sample we’ve seen tested as GBL.

We are expecting and preparing for Fentanyl, which has been implicated in a large number of deaths overseas, to arrive in New Zealand soon.  Fentanyl has been found as an adulterant in a wide range of substances used recreationally in other countries, and the risk of contamination of the New Zealand illicit market is high, therefore our advice is to always test a substance before using it.

To see the updated results for the 2016/2017 season, go to Our Results or click the picture above.  For further information, to volunteer, or to book KnowYourStuffNZ for an event, please contact us.

KnowYourStuffNZ carries out drug checking at events in conjunction with New Zealand Drug Foundation, who own the FT-IR spectrometer we use.

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Even the PM would support legal drug checking

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Bill English, is socially conservative. Yet when asked if he thought drug checking at festivals was a good idea, he said “I suppose it is – as long as it’s legal.”

“It means people can see what they’re taking is dangerous.”


“People who are taking drugs… I’m sure they understand what’s legal and what isn’t and the testing has to be as well.”


So let’s get on with bringing our 42-year-old drug laws into line with current policy and the views of those who make it.

Link to video

Russell Brown nails it again

Russell has been a major supporter of our work from the start, and was a catalyst in getting traction for the issue both politically and in the media.  He’s written an article for NZ Drug Foundation’s Matters of Substance about drug checking, and it’s well worth the read.

What I’d like to see,” says Allison, “is for the law to get out of the way of this – specifically, a change to section 12 to make an exception for harm-reduction practices. It’s a small change to the Act. It’s not condoning drugs, it’s not legalising – what it’s doing is decriminalising organisers who get us in.”

“The only solution ultimately will be an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act,” agrees Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

KnowYourStuffNZ teams up with NZ Drug Foundation to provide free drug checking

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Astonishing results from free testing of illicit drugs at festivals

Many festival-goers take drugs. But last summer, a significant number decided against it after being told the drug they were about to take was not what they thought.

During the summer festival season, community group KnowYourStuffNZ tested over three hundred illicit drugs using infrared spectroscopy at eight music festivals and found that thirty one percent (31%) of the samples were not as presumed. When the drug was not at all what they expected, over half said they planned not to use it, potentially averting serious harm.

KnowYourStuffNZ spokesperson Wendy Allison said she and other members of the festival community started the free service in 2014, after a festival medic told her someone would die if nothing was done to reduce the risk of harm from adulterated drugs.

“We run this service so that people can make informed choices about their drug use, because that information could keep them alive.”

Allison said more support from the public and from law makers would enable all New Zealand festivals to offer free testing of recreational drugs, which is currently being carried out in a legal grey area.

Today, New Zealanders were invited to support a PledgeMe campaign which will fund a second drug testing spectrometer to be used at festivals. Donations will fund a more widespread, free service. It’s also a way to demonstrate support for the law changes required to remove the grey area.

Allison said festival goers usually believed they possessed the popular recreational drugs MDMA or LSD, but testing sometimes revealed potentially more dangerous substances. Thirty-nine (39) distinct psychoactive substances were identified in total.

“Without drug checking, people go to events and use drugs which they purchase illicitly with no assurances that what they have is what they think it is, or what quality and strength it is. So, they take a massive additional risk on something we now have the technology to address.”

There have been several drug-related deaths at music festivals around the world in recent years.

Ross Bell, Executive Director of the NZ Drug Foundation, said the legal grey area exists because the legislation around drug use is obsolete.

“Presently the Misuse of Drugs Act leaves open the possibility that volunteers who’re testing people’s drugs, or festival organisers trying to keep people safe may be seen to be momentarily in possession of drugs or facilitating illegal drug use and therefore breaking the law.”

Bell said the Government’s approach of criminalising drug use without taking steps to reduce harm when people use them anyway is not only out of date, it is unethical.

“Arguably, the current drug laws do more harm to New Zealanders than the drugs themselves.”

The free testing service is provided by KnowYourStuffNZ in partnership with the NZ Drug Foundation, which helped by purchasing the first spectrometer. The expensive equipment can detect the presence of thousands of substances, from mundane to potentially life threatening.