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75% of people will refuse drugs if proved to be cathinones

75% of festival goers that brought their drugs to be checked by KnowYourStuffNZ have said that they will not take drugs they have bought if they turn out to be eutylone in place of MDMA.

KnowYourStuffNZ checked people’s drugs at festivals over New Years Eve. Data from these shows that 75% of people said they would not take their drugs when they found out they had eutylone instead of MDMA. 15% said they would maybe take it, and 10% said they would still take their substances despite finding out it was eutylone and not MDMA. In contrast, 90% of people that found they had MDMA said that they would take it.

This is a big change from previous years. Last year just over 50% of people said they would not take their drugs if they proved to be something other than what they were hoping for. This makes clear that people want to avoid eutylone if they have the information to help them make that decision.

Drug checking by KnowYourStuffNZ in the days leading up to New Years’ Eve showed that nearly 40% of “MDMA” was actually eutylone, an unpredictable and often unpleasant stimulant from the cathinone family.

As KnowYourStuffNZ couldn’t do drug checking at all the festivals over New Years’ Eve, they urged people to buy reagent tests from retailers and test their substances themselves. While not as thorough as spectrometer analysis, reagent tests can show when MDMA has been replaced by a cathinone.

The widespread availability of eutylone prompted a flood of messages to the group. Half were from people that had used a reagent test, found they had been sold cathinones instead of MDMA, and discarded their drugs as a result. The other half were from people that either hadn’t tested their drugs and they had turned out to be eutylone, or had tested them, found them to be eutylone, and taken them anyway. These messages described instances of vomiting foam, insomnia, and extreme anxiety.

“The messages we’ve received show how much worse it could have been,“ says KnowYourStuffNZ Managing Director Wendy Allison.
“Being able to get the message out early and fast meant that by New Years Eve, people knew about eutylone and were helping each other avoid it. While we weren’t able to have a physical presence at every event, the law change and the publicity around made it much easier to get the message out.”

Know Your Cathinones

We know that eutylone is being mis-sold as MDMA all over the country and ruining everyone’s summer this festival season. That’s not the only cathinone you need to watch out for though.

But wait, there’s more cathinones! And they’re pretty much all shit!

Aotearoa New Zealand has experienced at least 5 different types of cathinone in the last decade. Because they’re comparatively easy to make, every time we get a handle on one, another crops up to shit on everyone’s day.

Cathinones found in NZ have included:

  • Alpha PVP (flakka)
  • Eutylone
  • N-ethylpentylone
  • Mephedrone (4-MMC)
  • Pentylone
  • Methylone (M1 or bk-MDMA – despite the name, is *not* MDMA)

Why are cathinones so shit?

Cathinones are often more potent, mg for mg, than MDMA. A standard dose of cathinone can be anywhere between 10mg and 60mg. A standard dose of MDMA is anywhere between 75mg and 125mg. A dangerous dose of cathinone is between >15mg (flakka) and >100mg (eutylone). A dangerous dose of MDMA is >175mg.

So let’s say that someone’s been sold some “MDMA” that’s actually eutylone. They have 100mg of their “MDMA”, which is actually 1.5 doses of eutylone. The euphoria wears off quickly and they think that their “MDMA” is really weak, so they have another 100mg. They’ve now had 200mg of eutylone, which is well more than a standard dose and is getting into seriously risky territory.

Symptoms for dangerous doses for cathinones include hallucinations, tingling extremities, seizures, psychosis, vomiting and diarrhea, insomnia, severe, prolonged anxiety including panic attacks, and in some cases, death.

Sometimes drug manufacturers will mask cathinones with a small amount of MDMA in order to throw off reagent tests. Those are the drug manufacturers that get people killed. This is why getting your gear checked with our FTIR spectrometer is so important. Using reagent testing alone can’t detect these mixes and will give the same result as MDMA. We can tell you which cathinone you’re dealing with, how dangerous it is, and how you can take care of yourself if you have some by accident.

NZ’s top 3 cathinones

This is a run-down of the things you will potentially run into this summer. Things all cathinone experiences have in common are:

  • Mild euphoria that doesn’t last very long
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Racing heart

Things extreme cathinone experiences have in common are:

  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Hospitalisations

People have also overdosed and died because of these substances.

Basically, almost nobody has a good time with cathinones, especially when they take them inadvertently, thinking they are MDMA. The only thing that really varies is how much it takes to hurt you if you don’t know you’ve taken it.

Eutylone

We started seeing eutylone in December 2018 and it’s been picking up since then. It’s been strongly prevalent this summer and a large number of people have had extremely negative experiences with it. Almost half of the samples that we’ve seen that are meant to be MDMA have been eutylone, or a eutylone/MDMA mix. People taking this have experienced insomnia, gastric distress, hallucinations, and severe anxiety.

It’s been found in pill, powder, and crystal form, so unfortunately there’s no way of telling whether what you have is eutylone just by looking.

N-ethylpentylone

Judged Summer’s Crap Drug of 2017, this cathinone has been linked to deaths overseas and hospitalisations here. We found this in powder, crystal, and pill form. The active dose of n-ethylpentylone is >35mg, so even half a standard dose of “MDMA” will be more than you bargained for. A normal MDMA sized dose is likely to be harmful and unpleasant. DO NOT MESS AROUND WITH THIS SHIT.

Mephedrone

This is another cathinone that’s been linked to deaths overseas and hospitalisations here. This is one of the older cathinones (2005-2010) that has reappeared in NZ. Mephedrone can feel similar to MDMA but has a very high redose compulsion so you risk taking far too much. It also has a dependency risk.

We started seeing this in pill form in 2019, and it’s popped up every now and again since. Dosing for mephedrone is similar to that for MDMA, which means anything over 175mg is getting pretty risky. Make sure you weigh your gear properly, and be aware that if you snort it you should halve your dose.

Cathinones sound like shit, how do I avoid them?

Come and see us in the KYSNZ tent, obvs. We’ll run your gear through the FTIR spec and tell you if you’ve got mdma in your mdma, and whether or not you’ve got anything else in your mdma.

If you can’t come and see us, you can try a reagent test from the Hemp store or Cosmic, but this will only tell you if you’ve got solid cathinone. It can’t see cathinones that are present if the manufacturer has added MDMA to your cathinones.

If you can’t test your substances we strongly advise you not to take them.

Honestly, we’d rather you had a quiet one on the couch rather than a horrible one in A&E.

Reagent testing at home to check for cathinones

We’re absolutely flat out this summer, and unfortunately we can’t be everywhere. People that want to check their gear but can’t get to one of our testing sites have been using at home reagent tests to check for cathinones with some success. The main tests that people are using this summer are the EZ tests available from Cosmic.

While this can’t tell you if you’ve had your MDMA spiked, it will tell you if you’ve been sold a cathinone instead of MDMA. We have been hearing from lots of people this summer who bought from a trusted source but were smart enough to get it tested, either by us or with one of these at home tests. Then it turned out to be a cathinone and they binned it, because the slight up really isn’t worth the hellish down.

Warning! Reagent tests can only show the presence of one chemical.

They will not show cathinones if the drug manufacturer has masked them with a trace amount of MDMA. Even if your reagent test is positive for MDMA you should treat it with caution as it may be a mix of MDMA and cathinones.

That being said, reagent tests are better than nothing, and will show you if what you have is just cathinones instead of MDMA.
Most of what we have tested this summer has been just cathinones, not mixtures, so we are confident recommending that you should use these tests if you can’t get to KnowYourStuffNZ to use our FTIR spectrometer.

How the reagent tests work

Each test comes with an ampoule of testing reagent. Simply open the ampoule, drop in a small sample about the size of a couple of grains of salt or the head of a pin, and read the colour chart. Be careful with the reagent. they are corrosive and can burn your skin if the liquid touches you.

EZ Ecstasy test

The ecstasy test will show you if you have MDMA in your or if it contains only cathinones, Unfortunately it can’t tell you if there’s anything else mixed in your MDMA.

Image, an EZ Ecstasy test showing a positive result for MDMA. The reagent has gone a strong purple-black.
This is what a positive ecstasy test looks like. See how dark it is? What you want is a reaction that gives a strong purple black. What you do not want is a yellow reaction. It may go darker orange over time, but if it goes yellow first, it’s a cathinone. Remember, if it’s yellow, it ain’t mellow.
Image of a EZ Ecstasy test with cathinone. The reagent has gone bright yellow.
The test says methylone/butylone, but the reaction will be the same for eutylone, and most other cathinones. Note that reagent tests will give the same result for a 90% cathinone/10% mdma mix as it would for pure mdma so it is far from a guarantee because were also seeing a lot of those mixes.

The test says methylone/butylone, but the reaction will be the same for eutylone, and most other cathinones. Note that reagent tests will give the same result for a 90% cathinone/10% mdma mix as it would for pure mdma so it is far from a guarantee because were also seeing a lot of those mixes.

EZ MDMA purity test

The MDMA purity test shows how much MDMA is in a substance. It’s good for checking if you have a high dose pill or if your MDMA is actually a cathinone. It won’t show you if there’s anything else hiding in your substance.If your mdma is actually just cathinones. It won’t show you if there’s anything else hiding in your substance, or if it contains BOTH MDMA and cathinones

Image of the EZ MDMA Purity test. The reagent has gone pale brown at the top, showing a medium amount of MDMA in the substance tested
If you have MDMA the top layer of the reagent will change colour depending on how much MDMA there is. If there’s lots, it’ll go super dark. This picture shows a medium-strength positive reaction. If any other layers appear, any unexpected colour changes, or things don’t quite dissolve right, there is likely other unknown substances in your sample.
Image of a cathinone sample in the EZ MDMA Purity test. The reagent hasn't changed colour at all.
This is a cathinone in an MDMA purity test. As you can see, there’s been no reaction at all. If it’s clear, you can clearly bin it.

If you’re not sure about your reagent result, do not take your substance.

We’d rather you didn’t play Russian roulette with your drugs this summer. The chances of you having eutylone or a eutylone/MDMA mix is way too high, and we’re pretty sure you don’t want to spend the next few days vomiting and freaking out. Better to be safe than sorry.

Help, I’ve had eutylone! What do?

Eutylone is definitely this summer’s crap drug. Potentially even the crappiest drug since the N-ethylpentylone boom of 2017.

If you’ve accidentally had eutylone, it’s highly likely that you’ll have a shit time. It’s important to remember that it’s only for a finite time, and you’ll be ok once you ride it out. But you have to ride it out first.

What does eutylone feel like?

A lot of people have described it as feeling like they’ve been poisoned. For most people it’s basically a shit time for a long time.
If you’ve had eutylone, what you’ll probably feel is mild euphoria that is short lived, followed by ongoing stimulation and mild to intense anxiety. It’s likely you won’t be able to sleep that night, and possibly for anywhere up to 3-4 days. You may have a high heart rate with lingering or intensifying anxiety. You might also experience vomiting and/or have diarrhea, tremors, or muscle spasms.

One thing to keep in mind is that the eutylone experience is unpredictable – we’ve heard reports of people having a mild eutylone trip, then trying the same dose again another day and getting the anxiety/insomnia symptoms described above

In extreme cases or if it’s interacted badly with any medication you’re on, you get tingling in your feet and hands, you could have seizures, hallucinate, or have psychotic episodes. Your heart rate might also not slow down, or your symptoms might suddenly get worse. If this happens, you definitely need to see the medics or go to A&E as soon as you can.

Time is on your side

The key thing to remember with eutylone is that the symptoms won’t last forever. The anxiety and insomnia will wear off eventually, you just have to wait. It’s important to take good care of yourself until they do.

You might be tempted to smoke some weed to help bring you down, but we strongly advise against that. Y’know that thing about weed sometimes making folks paranoid? That goes from being a possibility to a definitely, and will make the anxiety you’re experiencing worse. (We did say it was a crap drug…)

The chill space is your friend

If you can get someone to take you home or somewhere safe and familiar for your recovery, do it. Build yourself a little nest on the couch and settle in with some light and fluffy tv. This will distract your brain and keep it from chewing on you while you recover.

If you’re at a festival, find somewhere that’s got a chill, low-key vibe. A lot of festivals have quiet spaces run by PsyCare or DeepSpace that are specifically for people that are having a difficult experience. Those spaces will have comfy couches and sensory toys to help ground you, and volunteers that will give you one-on-one help if you’re having a really difficult time.

Honestly, resting in a quiet place is the best thing that you can do for your brain. It limits the chance of having any unexpected confrontational or overwhelming experiences brought on by randoms.

Image, baby Yoda sleeping in his carrier
Rest, snacks, and non-caffeinated non-alcoholic beverages will have you feeling better in no time. Just be gentle with yourself in the mean time.

Drink some water and have snacks

Eating and drinking are about the last thing you’re going to want to do, but they’ll help you recover quicker.

Having little nibbles of things like nuts, chocolate, fruit, jerky, or muesli bars often over the course of the day will get nutrients into you without overloading your belly and making you want to vomit. You’ll be able to keep your food down better if you have little bits a lot of times. Soup is also a great non-challenging food if you can get it.

Staying hydrated is important, especially if you’ve been vomiting or have diarrhea. Water, fruit juice, or drinks with electrolytes in them are great for recovery. Avoid alcohol. Avoid energy drinks and caffeinated drinks like the plague. They’ll jack your heart rate up, add to your anxiety, and keep you awake for even longer. The longer you stay awake, the higher the likelihood is of having a psychotic episode. Stick to the OJ and you’ll come out ok.

How to help if you’re the sober person for your friends

It’s scary watching your friends go through a eutylone experience, even if it’s a mild one. Things you can do are:

  • Bring your friends to the medics if you’re at a festival, or to A&E if you’re in town. They’re trained to deal with situations like eutylone dosing and won’t narc on you or judge you.
  • Help them make a space where they can ride the experience out. Pillows, blankets, low light, and warmth are all good things to have in their recovery nest.
  • Bring them snacks and drinks when they need them
  • If your friends are getting anxious, breathing exercises can help to calm them down.
    Healthline have some good breathing techniques on their website
    https://www.healthline.com/health/breathing-exercises-for-anxiety
  • Grounding exercises can also help if your friend is having a difficult time. Grounding is a way to get the brain’s attention to focus on something instead of getting caught up in the overwhelming anxiety spiral. Healthline have some great techniques that you can try on their site:
    https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding-techniques

Whether it is you or your friend that is struggling, reassurance can really make all the difference in managing the experience- particularly when it comes to the psychological symptoms. Remind yourself, or them, frequently that the symptoms are coming from the drug, not them. It will pass, they will be OK.

Don’t wait to seek help if you need it.

Notification: High dose MDMA pills still a risk this summer

KnowYourStuffNZ is testing a fair number of high-dose MDMA pills. These are more risky because the dosage is excessive. While we’re seeing lots of cathinones, there is still plenty of MDMA around.

These pills should be approached with caution.

We advise that the only way to guarantee safety is to not take them. If you 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. One type of pill (Pink Porsche copies) also contain caffeine. Combining stimulants such as MDMA and caffeine can increase the risk of heart problems and psychosis. No other psychoactives have been detected in the listed pills.

A common dose of MDMA is around 80-120 milligrams, depending upon a user’s body weight. Some of these pills contain more than two doses in a single pill. We recommend weighing your doses wherever possible.

Taking too much MDMA can cause 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, get medical help straight away.

Please note that the amount of MDMA in these pills is only an indication. Our spectrometers are good at telling what substances are present but not great at working out exactly how much. We recommend always erring on the side of caution.

Suspected high dose pills include:

Description Image
Blue New York Yankees
Light blue/turquoise, round, quite thick, NY logo on front, dividing line on reverse
Weight: 350mg
Estimated to contain 150mg MDMA
Note: pills of this size, shape, and colour last year contained 250-300mg MDMA

Colour and size reference chart

Green Four Leaf Clover
Pale green, round
Weight: 380 mg
Estimated to contain 230mg MDMA
Purple Givenchy
Pinky-purple, square, Givenchy logo on front, “givenchy 260mg” on back with dividing line
Weight: 430-460mg
Estimated to contain 250mg MDMA

Orange Soundcloud
Orange, cloud shaped, Soundcloud logo on front, divider line on back
Weight: 440 mg
Estimated to contain 250mg MDMA
Blue Kenzo
Blue, tiger head on front, “KENZO” on back
Weight: 380mg
Estimated to contain 150mg MDMA
Note: pills of this size, shape, and colour last year contained 200-300mg MDMA
Red Iron Man
Red-pink, Iron Man logo
Weight: 370mg
Estimated to contain 150mg MDMA
Yellow #MeToo
Rectangular, “#MeToo” on front, two fists on back, dividing line
Weight: 460mg
Estimated to contain 200mg MDMA
Pink Porsche
Pink, Porsche logo on front and reverse
Weight: 260mg
Estimated to contain 160mg of MDMA and 100mg of caffeine, equivalent to 1 or 2 cups of coffee
A copy of previous Pink Porsches which did not contain caffeine
Purple Superman
Tests as nothing but plaster of Paris
No MDMA found
Sucks if you bought this one