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Drug checking – beyond the festival season

For some time now, KnowYourStuff NZ and the NZ Drug Foundation have been checking drugs at music festivals and handing out potentially lifesaving advice.

But festivals are mainly a summer event, and we all know that drug-taking is not limited to summer or fesitvals. So in the interests of public safety, we’re extending a trial of our drug checking service to include the winter months in Wellington CBD.

Starting Thursday 18 July, we’ll be offering discreet, confidential and free drug checking once a month at the Drug Foundation office in Wellington. We hope that in time we can run the service all year round, from multiple locations across New Zealand.

Volunteers from KnowYourStuffNZ and the Drug Foundation use a combination of infrared technology and reagent testing, which allows them to identify over 95 percent of substances.

We’re proud of our success rate: A client survey by KnowYourStuffNZ  showed that most people taking drugs understand the risks and will take them anyway, but three years of data consistently shows that when confronted with a test result that reveals their substance is not what they thought, many people will choose not to take it.

Drug checking is also a unique opportunity for volunteers to offer tailored harm reduction advice, and potentially get people thinking more actively about their drug use.

Participants are always reminded that the safest option is to not take a substance.

Check our website for some great news, results and other information. Or take a look at the Drug Foundation’s website for a section on keeping safe.

  • The first service begins on Thursday 18 July.  Come up to level 4, 265 Wakefield St, from 5.30 – 7.30pm.

drug checking next thurs

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

KnowYourStuffNZ drug checking results for 2018/2019 festival season

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Testing by KnowYourStuffNZ at music festivals this summer reveals that more people than ever before are willing not to take dangerous drugs. When people discovered that their drugs were not what they were expected, 62% of them were willing not to take them.

In partnership with NZ Drug Foundation, KnowYourStuffNZ used FTIR spectroscopy and reagents at thirteen festivals to test 805 samples of illicit drugs brought in voluntarily by users, almost doubling the number of tests we did last year. 

Of those samples, 87% tested as containing the substances that were expected.

Our results showed a continuing trend towards more MDMA, with both more samples being brought to us for testing and more of those samples actually testing as containing MDMA. This summer, 90% of samples brought to us as MDMA actually contained MDMA. We also saw over thirty brightly coloured high-dose pills with a variety of shapes and logos, a risk that KnowYourStuffNZ warned about in March.

Unlike previous years when we saw a range of substitutions, this summer when samples believed to be MDMA were not, they were likely to be n-ethylpentylone. Last summer, we voted it 2018’s crap drug and this summer we saw it at many events. We also saw several samples of caffeine being sold as MDMA.

Just like every summer, we discovered new drugs. Of particular concern was eutylone, a new cathinone that has been responsible for several hospitalisation. We put out a warning in April after seeing it at events from the upper North Island to lower South Island.

For the first time this year, we surveyed our clients to find out more about what kinds of people use our service. 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. Most people have had no prior experience with drug testing or harm reduction services, showing that KnowYourStuffNZ reaches people that no other services reach. Most worryingly, three-quarters have experienced taking drugs that were not what they were supposed to be, with effects ranging from unpleasant to needing medical help.

Our survey showed that most people taking drugs understand the risks and will take drugs anyway. Our work is also showing that most people will make safer choices if they have access to good information that allows them to make those choices. Drug testing provides that information.

Full results for the 2108/2019 summer can be found here.

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

Cathinone C86 identified as eutylone

The substance found and alerted by KnowYourStuffNZ in testing earlier this month, previously known only as C86, has now been identified as eutylone.

Eutylone, also known as bk-EBDB or n-ethylbutylone, is a stimulant in the cathinone family (sometimes called “bath salts”). It was first synthesised in the 1960s and first reported to  European Early Warning Systems in 2014. Reports of recreational use began to appear about 2 years ago.

KnowYourStuffNZ detected the first sample of this substance in December 2018. We have detected five samples of eutylone this year, in locations from upper North Island to lower South Island. All were obtained as MDMA, and were described as a white powder that tends to clump together – however it may also be around in other formats. Anecdotal reports from NZers who have used this substance thinking it was MDMA suggest it may be responsible for several hospitalisations.

In the absence of a spectrometer, reagents can be used to test for the presence of eutylone. Testing with the Marquis reagent will give a yellow/orange colour, and the Mandelin reagent turns a muddy greenish-brown. Meanwhile if a substance contains MDMA, both Marquis and Mandelin reagents will turn black. It is important to note that other cathinones have been found mixed with MDMA, so a positive test result for MDMA does not mean a substance is unadulterated.

Eutylone is not well researched and very little information about it is available. The following information has been put together from a combination of user reports, safety data sheets, and references in scientific journals.

Dosage:

Oral doses of between 35mg and 150mg have been reported, however the average dose is reported as 60-100mg. 150mg was described as ‘very intense’.

Duration

4-6 hours

Effects

The effects are described as subtle, calming, social, serotonergic (loved up), euphoric, and not particularly stimulating.

Sensations of physical warmth and tingling were described in several reports. One user reported feeling unusual heart activity.

Dangers/negatives

Users reported redose compulsion, with most redosing every 1-2 hours.  Because this is a stimulant, repeated redosing can lead to restlessness and insomnia, and eventually psychosis if the user does not sleep.

Safety Data Sheet information suggests it may be irritating to mucous membranes.

Users have reported raised heartbeats, and as it constricts blood vessels this substance can also raise blood pressure and cause numb or cold extremities.

Eutylone has been identified as present in one death in the US, however the victim had also taken fentanyl and thus the role of eutylone in the death is not clear.

Harm reduction information

Avoid snorting this substance.

Avoid taking with other stimulants (eg cocaine or MDMA), dissociatives (eg ketamine, DXM, or GHB/GBL), or alcohol.

If you intend to take eutylone, be aware that it is a very new substance with little confirmed information available, and therefore approach with extreme caution. Take only a fraction of the expected dose and wait at least an hour before taking more.

Always make sure a trusted person knows what you are doing.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, racing heart, or numbness in the extremities, seek medical help and be honest about what you have taken.

Dunedin cathinone capsule

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

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.