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Results from our static drug checking trial look promising

The results of our pilot drug checking service are in, and they show it’s a worthwhile service that people will utilise to make safer choices about their drug use.

There’s no such thing as completely safe drug use, we all know that. But that doesn’t stop some people – especially young people – from taking drugs regardless, without knowing what’s in them or the harm they could cause.

KnowyourStuffNZ volunteers have been carrying out festival drug checking for many years. But drug taking is not limited to summer or festivals, so last July we joined with the Drug Foundation to begin operating regular drug checking services at an inner city location – the Drug Foundation’s Wellington office.

The results of this initial phase are out, and we’ve collected enough information to say it’s worthwhile to continue and hopefully expand the service.

All drug use is potentially harmful. But the real harm comes from using an unknown substance, using too much, or using it in a harmful way.

Drug checking aims to clear the air. To get some information into the equation, and hopefully save lives. Attendence started out low, but numbers have risen steadily – and that’s important.

It means people want to talk about drugs, and they want to be safer. Drug checking is a unique opportunity to share tailored harm reduction advice so clients can make better, more informed, safer decisions about their drug use.

Here are the results, in a nutshell:

Since last July we’ve tested 112 samples, and we’re pleased to say that most of them (77 percent) were exactly what the client expected. But that means 16.5 were not. Three percent of those unknown substances turned out to be synthetic cathinones – two of them the highly dangerous n-ethylpentylone which left multiple people hospitalisesd in 2018.

Most clients thought they had MDMA (ecstasy). As always, upon discovering it wasn’t what they thought, most said they were no longer planning to take the substance.

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

Full report below, click to magnify:

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Link to NZ Drug Foundation’s release and report

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

What happens when the apocalypse stops the party

Due to the current pandemic, all festivals, events, and gatherings have been cancelled. KnowYourStuffNZ’s drug checking service is not considered essential, so we won’t have a lot of testing to do over the next few weeks/months.
This means:

  • No festival/event-based drug checking service will be available
  • No static testing services will be offered.

We will go back to providing drug checking when New Zealand returns to Alert Level 2 or lower.

We will still be working though! We will be continuing to provide advice and information to help reduce drug related harm by:

  • Sharing with you advice about  drug harm reduction for various substances 
  • Analysing and sharing the data from the 2019/20 festival season
  • Providing individually tailored advice via email and messaging services to anyone who needs it
  • Warning people about any identified dangerous substances out there
  • Continuing to advocate for harm reduction as best practice for drug responses in New Zealand

If you have any drug-related questions, please get in touch with us via our various social media or the contact page on our website.

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Image credit: AlvaroGzP

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

Stay temperature smart this summer

Summer. It’s hot. One of the main effects of LSD, MDMA and/or other stimulants is that you can get very hot very quickly as the drug kicks in. Hot environment + hot person = potential for heat stroke, especially if you’re indoors, in the sun, or in the thick of a packed dance floor. Here’s some tips on how to stay out of the medics’ tent this summer.

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Image Credit: Katherine Kwan, VisualBass Photography

Hydration

Monitoring your water intake is important, especially if you’ve taken MDMA. You should drink the right amount – not too much, not too little. There have been cases of people drinking too much water after taking MDMA, overhydrating, and winding up in hospital with hyponatremia. Hyponatremia has killed partygoers before, so please be careful. We like it when you don’t die. 

Ideal ways to stay safely hydrated are:

  • Limit your alcohol intake. It’s a diuretic (makes you pee lots) and you want to keep your fluids on your inside, not your outside.
  • Limit your water intake to one big cup per hour. This is a safe amount of water for your body to process. You can measure time by DJ sets if you don’t have a watch. Grab a drink every time the DJ changes and you’ll be right. If you have extra water, you can always pour it over your head to keep cool.
  • Electrolyte drinks such as Powerade and coconut water can help replenish what you’re sweating out. Keep your tent stocked if you’re at a festival, or grab one on your way home at the end of the night.
  • Keep the one big cup of fluid per hour going for at least two hours after you get home from your adventures.

Read more about staying safely hydrated on MDMA at the Psychedelic Times website.

A good way to avoid the dry-mouth that goes along with jaw clenching without overhydrating is to suck on an ice cube or lollipop, or chew gum. 

Take breaks and dress for the occasion.

Take regular breaks if you’re on the dance floor. If you can go out onto a balcony or chill out by a window and get some fresh air, do it. If you’re at a festival, spend some time in the chill space. Regular rest breaks will keep you cool and out of the medic’s tent.

If you start feeling too hot and you have ice on hand, don’t be afraid to rub it on your hands and face for a bit of instant relief. If you’re at a venue, duck into the toilets and hold your hands under the cold tap in the hand basin.

Wearing layers that you can take off and on as you need to is also advisable, especially at night if you’re at an outdoor gig. Remember to bring a jacket to wear on your way home. While overheating is a concern, you can also get too cold at night while travelling.

Check in with yourself and your friends

Listen to your body. If you think you might be overheating, check in with your friends, take a break and have some water. If you’re too warm, chances are your mates might be too and you’ll have a better night if you don’t have to go to A&E.

Don’t listen to your brain. Drugs can interfere with your decision-making, and heat stroke definitely makes you confused. The two together can lead to terrible decisions. Check in with your friends or sober people about what state you are in and be willing to take their advice, even if you think you feel fine.

Heat-related problems 

If you start feeling any of these, seek medical help immediately. If you are with someone who experiences these, help them to get medical help.

Heat cramps

This is the least severe of the three. The major muscle groups in your body will start involuntarily spasming. They generally happen if you’ve been doing a lot of physical exercise in a hot or humid environment, like dancing on a packed dance floor. You sweat profusely and your legs, core muscles, and arms cramp up. Heat cramps can hit both while you’re dancing, and after you’ve gone home, so make sure you hydrate properly for the entire time you’re adventuring.

Learn more about heat cramps

Heat exhaustion

You get heat exhaustion if you’re in a hot environment and don’t hydrate well. The symptoms of heat exhaustion are:

  • profuse sweating,
  • weakness,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • headache,
  • lightheadedness, and
  • muscle cramps.

Learn more about heat exhaustion

Heat stroke

This is the worst of the heat-related problems that can happen as it can kill. It comes with being severely dehydrated.

You get dizzy, confused, and disoriented. You stop sweating because your body doesn’t have any more fluid for you to sweat out. In extreme cases you can pass out or go into a coma. At worst, you can die.

Learn more about heat stroke

Read more about self care in our post about the problems with mixing drugs with other substances.

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Image credit: Andrew Palau Festivals

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

Update: more pills to be aware of this summer

With the festival season ongoing and many university Orientation events happening next week, KnowYourStuffNZ would like to provide an update of pills currently in circulation that may not be as they seem. This follows on from our notification of high dose MDMA pills prior to New Year. The pills have been identified in our testing this summer season, and are likely to be found around the country.

Four new types of pill have been estimated to contain more than one dose of MDMA, and two contain no MDMA at all, instead containing cathinones (“bath salts”). One of the cathinone pills also contains caffeine.

Cathinone pills

Mephedrone produces similar effects to MDMA, but is described as ‘speedier’ and is active in lower doses. A common dose is 45-80mg. It has been implicated in a small number of deaths overseas. 

The main danger with mephedrone is that it has a high redose compulsion which makes you want to take more. This can lead to prolonged insomnia, overdose or dependence.

Methylone, also known as bk-MDMA, has similar effects to MDMA but is less potent in terms of dose. A common dose is 150-200mg. The identified pill also contains caffeine. This increases the risk of harm as combining stimulants can cause heart problems and psychosis. 

Cathinones can be dangerous when taken with alcohol, tramadol, or MAOI antidepressants. They can cause insomnia and anxiety, and in high doses, psychosis. 

High dose MDMA pills

The pills that we have found contain up to three doses in a single pill. A common dose of MDMA is around 80-120 milligrams, depending upon a user’s body weight. We recommend weighing your doses wherever possible.

Taking too much MDMA can result in a very unpleasant experience, health risks, and sometimes even death. 

Because these substances act on the serotonin system, serotonin syndrome is a potentially fatal risk. If you or someone you know has taken any of these pills and experiences the following, seek medical attention immediately. 

  • dizziness
  • vomiting, 
  • a sharp rise in body temperature, 
  • muscle cramping, 
  • heart palpitations, 
  • seizures, 
  • unconsciousness,.

Please note that the amount of active substance present is an estimate only as our technology cannot directly measure dosage or purity. Our spectrometer provides a rough percentage of psychoactive content in a sample. 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 caution.

Pills to be aware of include:

 

Description Image
Green Speckles

Dark green, round, speckled, no logo

Weight: 371mg

Estimated to contain 150-200mg MDMA

1 green plain adjusted - CopyColour and size reference chart
(1 square= 1cm2)
Orange One

Orange/brown, round pill, has ‘ONE’ stamped on it

Weight: 370mg

Estimated to contain 200-250mg MDMA

2 orange one adjusted - Copy
Pink Grenade

Pink, shaped like a grenade with grenade markings stamped on it, sometimes mistaken for a pineapple

Weight: 338mg

Estimated to contain at least 150mg MDMA

4 pink grenade adjusted - Copy
Blue Punisher

Blue, roughly triangular, Punisher logo

Weight: 443mg

Estimated to contain 200mg MDMA

blue punisher - Copy
Blue Mario

Pale blue, round, Mario Brothers face stamped on it

Weight: 430mg

Estimated to contain ~180mg methylone and 100mg caffeine.

3 blue mario adjusted - Copy
Dark Green square

Dark green, square-ish pill, logo can’t be made out

Weight: 245mg

Estimated to contain 90mg mephedrone

5 dark green meph adjusted - Copy

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

Eutylone report – “I felt poisoned for 48 hours”

KnowYourStuffNZ’s testing at festivals this summer has found that there are still dangerous chemicals being sold as MDMA (as well as a lot of MDMA). 

Know Your Stuff-29

One drug of concern is eutylone, which was described to us as “48 hours of misery”. Eutylone is a new cathinone (sometimes referred to as “bath salts”). KnowYourStuffNZ summarised the available information about eutylone in our warning last year: Cathinone C86 identified as eutylone. We have found eutlyone at every event we’ve attended this season.

Eutylone is particularly risky as it initially feels like weak MDMA. It produces some euphoria which fades after the first hour. Users thinking they have MDMA may think it is just weak MDMA and be tempted to take more. Higher doses have been linked with intense, unpleasant and potentially dangerous experiences.

As eutylone is a very new substance, there is no good information on the recommended dosage. However, users have reported effects at 35 mg. If users are expecting MDMA and weighing out MDMA-sized doses (typically 100 mg), then they risk unknowingly taking a dangerous amount of eutylone.

A KnowYourStuffNZ client did take more – 250 mg in total. They reported feeling “poisoned” and spent 48 hours in misery, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep.

All of the samples of eutylone we have found have been indistinguishable from MDMA by eye, so without testing you cannot be certain you do not have this substance. Eutylone shows the characteristic cathinone reactions when reagent tested – orange/yellow change with Marquis, and muddy green/brown with Mandelin. 

KnowYourStuffNZ’s advice about eutylone is to approach with extreme caution. Not enough is known about this substance to provide specific harm reduction information, so we recommend avoiding where possible, and if you do intend to take it, take a very small amount and wait at least an hour before considering having more. If you feel unwell, particularly with stimulant-type symptoms such as: racing heart, elevated temperature, or extreme anxiety, seek medical attention.

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