Analysis of the 2018-19 KnowYourStuffNZ client surveys that were fielded at events where we provided services between October 2018 and April 2019. All analysis by Andrea Knox.
We developed a 10-question survey, and administered it using Survey Anyplace. Clients were asked to complete the survey while they waited for testing. The survey was anonymous and optional. Clients’ survey responses were not linked in any way to data on the results of their testing.
To avoid duplicates:
- clients were asked to complete the survey only once per event (e.g. clients who visited us twice at an event only completed the survey once)
- at the end of the survey we asked if they had previously completed the survey at another event. This allowed us to filter out duplicate responses from returning clients.
A copy of the survey questionnaire can be supplied on request.
As a supplement to the survey, we created a “stories box” to collect qualitative data on clients’ experiences with substances that weren’t what they were supposed to be, and ways in which their approaches to taking drugs may have changed due to previous visits to KnowYourStuffNZ.
These questions were asked on paper, pens were supplied, and clients were asked to place their responses into a box. 21 responses were received.
A copy of the stories box questions can be supplied on request.
Downloading and reading in the data
Response data was downloaded from Survey Anyplace, opened in MS Excel, and collated across events. Blank responses (generated as part of the offline survey administration process) were manually identified and deleted. The spreadsheet of collated responses was saved as a csv, and read into R.
Data loaded into R: Fri Mar 08 09:16:12 2019
Number of responses and demographics
We received 288 survey responses across 8 events.
There were some responses from people who completed the survey at multiple events. Filtering out those people’s 2nd (or later) responses, we find that we surveyed 274 people.
95% of clients were under 45, with 50% under 25.
Prior experience with KnowYourStuff, with other harm reduction services, and with drug checking at home
- 82% of clients were new (they had not used KnowYourStuffNZ services before).
- 89% of clients said that KnowYourStuffNZ was their first contact with a drug-related harm reduction service. That is, they had not accessed other drug checking or drug health services before, such as the needle exchange, community alcohol and drug services, or drug checking services overseas.
- 21% of clients said that they had tested drugs themselves, for example, using a home testing kit.
What experiences have people had with substances that were not what they were supposed to be?
75% of clients reported that they have had an experience where they think the drug they took was not what it was supposed to be.
Via the ‘stories box’, we collected further detail. These are some of the experiences people described.
“Yes, I took what I thought was MDMA at a party and it made me feel suicidal, which is not a feeling MDMA has ever given me any other time. I was extremely scared and felt like I was losing my mind. To this day I’m certain it wasn’t MDMA.”
“Yes. I think the MDMA had a stimulant as well – stayed awake too long and it was a more ‘speedy’ and gritty experience.”
“I took pressed pills sold to me as Mdma and was kept awake by the experience but with little of the associated ‘ecstasy’ experience sensations, mainly, it felt like ‘dirty speed’. (appetite surpressed, alcohol has no effect) Big headache followed.”
“Took 2 tabs of ‘acid’ … not knowing it was in fact NBOME. Had a seizure :(”
“Smoked heroin that later turned out to be fentanyl. Ambulance had to be called for friends.”
Has KnowYourStuff changed peoples’ approaches to taking drugs?
Of the 47 people who had used KnowYourStuffNZ services before, 87% (41 people) said that their approach to taking drugs had changed as a result of their previous visit/s.
Via the ‘stories box’, we collected some insights into how people felt their approach had changed.
“Yes! I feel compelled to take precautions when I consume drugs now”
“candid discussions with people with experience and scientific knowledge makes me feel that ‘safe’ drugs I want to take should be expected, & therefore, like I should be less prepared to take risks with substances”
“Yes, I always test before taking anything”
“Yes, if I have the opportunity to check it I always would.”
“Before testing, I wouldn’t prioritise drug testing, even if I was unsure of the precise contents. After testing, I realise the importance of knowing the contents and the hazards. I feel safer taking drugs after testing and can enjoy the night, and portion correctly without worrying if the drug is ‘strong enough’”
Other comments and suggestions
The final survey question asked for any other comments or suggestions about KnowYourStuffNZ or drug checking in New Zealand.
We received 108 comments.
- 64 were messages of support and praise for volunteers. For example:
“An essential service for the safety of our community. Thank you.”
“I’m very happy that these kinds of services are available. It’s a mature response to drug use at events. Ka pai.”
“Such an important service, thank you. Keep saving lives.”
“The people working the tent were very welcoming and informative”
“You saved someone’s life tonight”
- 16 were supportive and also suggested extension of drug checking services. For example:
“I think every festival needs this or a similar service for the safety of NZers”
“It should be legal and available at many events and gigs”
- 9 were supportive and also suggested that there should be more funding and/or government support for drug checking services. For example:
“They should have government funding. Saving lives. Amazing approachable people doing this out of the goodness of their hearts.”
“Hopefully there will be more government involved in treating drugs as a health issue rather than as a crime”
- 6 suggested that there should be better publicity about the availability of KnowYourStuffNZ services, For example:
“Make it easier to find! Include in map?”
“More awareness of exactly what this tent does never hurts. A lot of people would use the service if they new it was here and knew it was anonymous and confidential.”
- 2 made suggestions for improvements to KnowYourStuffNZ processes:
“Having internet to search random drugs that pop up during tests would be useful :)”
“So along with asking [in the survey] whether you used drugs whose provinence was unknown you might also ask was there ever a time when the drugs you took were significantly different in their expected strength.”
- 2 suggested drug education initiatives, for example:
“I’d like to see more on social platforms with directions to safe use and dosages, also having roaming workers at festivals spreading the word for harm reduction would be awesome Cheers!”
Data analysis by Andrea Knox.