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 While not as thorough as spectrometer analysis, reagent tests can show when MDMA has been replaced by a cathinone.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.”

New Zealand Government legalises drug checking

Today the Government announced that it will legalise drug checking in New Zealand. After six years of testing by KnowYourStuffNZ, we are glad to escape from legal limbo and be recognised as a necessary service to help keep people safe.

The new legislation lets drug checking be provided by appointed service providers at festivals, events, and other locations.

KYSNZ team

In the past it has been a legal risk for festival organisers to have our service at their event. The law has meant that organisers have had to turn a blind eye to drug use at events. Pretending drug use isn’t happening is a terrible way to address drug use. This law change means that event organisers no longer have to lie and can be more honest about harm reduction and caring for the welfare of festival-goers.

For this summer season, this means that KnowYourStuffNZ can be more open about our service at festivals. We may be able to say what festivals we’ll be attending and have some signage that actually says what we do. There are practical changes as well – our volunteers will be able to handle the test substances which should speed up our service and reduce queues.

In the longer term, we see this change as being part of a more open and honest approach to drugs. We look forward to drug checking being available to all who can benefit from it. That goes beyond festivals where, let’s face it, we’re serving a mostly well-off, young, and white crowd. Our overall goal is to be part of reducing harm for everyone and anyone who uses drugs.

Our path over the past six years has been to do the right thing, even if the law was unclear, and to gather evidence about the effects drug checking has on drug use and harms. When we went public about our work, we expected to be shut down or even arrested. Instead, public opinion has supported our work. We’ve had no legal difficulties and we’ve grown from a one-person show to a national organisation. Our evidence based approach has made clear the benefits of drug checking and justified the legal changes that we see today.

A very large number of people and events have helped to make this happen. Once we’re over the current buzz, there will be time to thank everyone. That’s a long list:

  • our volunteers for their hard and unpaid work,
  • the festivals that have taken a legal risk to have us on-board,
  • our partners and supporters,
  • the NZ Drug Foundation and High Alert for being part of this journey,
  • the politicians who have been willing to stand by us,
  • the journalists who have helped us tell our story,
  • and above all our clients for trusting us and doing the right thing to keep themselves and their friends safe.

For now, we’ll just thank the Minister and the Government and get busy getting ready for this summer season.

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

Introducing High Alert

We’ve been advocating for a drug Early Warning System for New Zealand for years, and it’s finally happened! Introducing High Alert – where you can check for warnings and notifications about what’s out there and help keep yourself safe.


So, who’s behind High Alert?

It’s a collaborative effort between a network of organisations who regularly encounter and respond to drug issues. Known as Drug Information and Alerts New Zealand (DIANZ), this group works together to reduce drug related harm. DIANZ issues alerts and notifications when something is identified that poses significant harm to people who use drugs, and gathers and analyses data from a variety of sources in order to monitor drug trends. .

KnowYourStuffNZ is part of DIANZ. We support the work DIANZ is doing by providing information about potentially dangerous substances we have found, and helping with decisions, alerts, and notifications.

Key info about High Alert:

· It acts as a central point for all drug related data, which will help to quickly and effectively respond to immediate and future risk in drug harm.

· Anyone who has experienced unexpected or concerning effects from drugs can share their experience through High Alert. This will help keep others safe. Data collected via the website is entirely confidential. It won’t be used to pursue prosecution.

· Alerts and notifications will be published on the website to inform the public of any increased health risks presented by new drug trends or novel substances.

· Education and specific harm reduction advice based on the latest trends will also be published on the website.

· All of this aims to reduce drug-related harm.

The High Alert website publishes alerts and general harm reduction information for people who use drugs, health practitioners, and the general public. It also allows people who use drugs to report unexpected or concerning effects from drug use with no risk of prosecution.

Note: we will continue to provide our own alerts when public safety requires a speedy response to emerging dangerous substances, such as over New Years. However, we encourage you to check High Alert regularly – it’s been a long time coming and we’re happy it’s finally here!

Visit highalert.org.nz to find out more. 

Darroch Ball thinks we shouldn’t save people’s lives

KnowYourStuffNZ has been carrying out drug checking at festivals for five years. In that time, we have helped thousands of festival-goers to make safer and more informed decisions. We help people avoid the most dangerous drugs and, if they choose to use a substance, we help them to be safer. We have had huge support from punters, festival organisers, medics, Police, MPs from both sides of Parliament, three Prime Ministers, and the Minister of Police Stuart Nash.

Seemingly the only person who doesn’t like us is Darroch Ball. He’s the Law and Order Spokesperson from New Zealand First. Yeah, we’d never heard of him either until he decided to get in our way. He’s blocking changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act that would support a national rollout of drug checking.

Darroch said that “We’re being very reactionary if we think that it’s ok to start saving lives or to start protecting people”.

Police minister’s plan to legalise pill testing at summer festivals derailed as NZ First says it encourages drug use

Darroch thinks that people should suffer if they break the law, even if that means they die from taking a pill. Darroch thinks his moral stance is more important than kids’ lives.

Seriously, we’re having an argument about whether we should save people’s lives or not. What the hell, Darroch?

Darroch thinks that drug checking doesn’t work, ignoring twenty years of experience in Europe and five years of our work in New Zealand. That evidence is clear – drug checking reduces risky behaviour and the harm from drug use. 

Darroch thinks that drug checking normalises and condones drug taking. That horse has already bolted, with 80% of young New Zealanders admitting to trying illegal substances. There is also no evidence from studies over the last twenty years to suggest that drug checking leads to increases in drug use. We’ve told Darroch this, but he ignores the evidence and continues to push this line.

Currently the law around drug checking is unclear. That’s stopping us from providing our service at New Zealand’s largest festivals. We want that law clarified, as does Stuart Nash. The blockage for that legal change isn’t New Zealand First. The blockage is Darroch Ball.

High-dose MDMA pills containing two or three times the standard dose have killed a number of young people in the UK and Australia. KnowYourStuffNZ’s data shows that these pills are available in New Zealand as well. It is only a matter of time before one of Aotearoa’s young people dies. When that happens, Darroch Ball will have blood on his hands.

Media coverage for January

This summer is our busiest season yet, with the Police Minister Stuart Nash supporting drug checking and our New Year alert about n-ethyl pentylone reaching 85,000 people. Of course, that kicked off quite a bit of media coverage:

Newshub, 2 January: Drug testing uncovers more laced pills at music festival
Radio NZ, 2 January: Testing shows MDMA pills laced with bath salts
Radio NZ, 3 January: Summer festival drugs ‘designed to baffle tests
Sky News Australia, 3 January: NZ doctor lauds effective drug testing program
Radio NZ, 3 January: No room for vagueness in drug testing at music festivals
Gisbourne Herald, 3 January: Minister backs festival drug tests
Sydney Morning Herald, 4 January: What is pill testing?
Stuff, 4 January: Editorial: It’s high time for drug testing
MSN, 7 January: New Zealand unveils plans to have pill testing at ALL music festivals – as Australia refuses to discuss the idea despite five overdose deaths since September
Stuff, 8 January: Dr Cathy Stephenson: Telling your kids to stay away from drugs can backfire
Vice, 10 January: Why New Zealand Needs Legal Drug Testing at its Summer Festivals
The Big Smoke, 14 January: Pill testing saves lives, it doesn’t create addicts
Insights, 16 January: What you should know about pill-testing
95bfm, 19 January: Safe Drug Testing w/ Know Your Stuff
Newshub, 22 January: Poll: Do you think testing drugs at summer festivals should be publicly funded?
Science Media Centre NZ, 25 January: Festival drug testing – Expert Reaction
Stuff, 25 January: Free drug testing in spotlight as festival season kicks off
Māori Television, 25 January: What’s really in that pill? The festival drug testing debate
NZ Herald, 28 January: Lee Suckling: Are music festivals unsafe?

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