2019 – 2020 Survey report

This document presents an analysis of the 2019-20 KnowYourStuffNZ client surveys that were carried out at events between December 2019 and February 2020.

We received 138 responses to the survey.

Two thirds of KnowYourStuffNZ clients were aged 25-44 and a quarter were under 25

Among the 137 survey respondents who indicated their age, 34 (25%) were under 25. 87 (64%) were aged between 25 and 44, and 16 (12%) were older than 45.

This is a slightly older age distribution than we saw among survey respondents last year. It may indicate that in 2019-20 we reached people who are, on average, older. However, this year’s survey coverage was also less complete, with around half the number of responses that we received last year. This limits our ability to compare across years (see Caveats section).

View last year’s survey results

Image, graph showing ages of survey respondents
Age of people answering the 2019-2020 survey. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Most clients intended to go to at least two festivals in 2019-20

Among the 134 survey respondents who indicated how many festivals, or similar events, they intended to go to in 2019-20, only 25 (19%) said that they were just going to the event that they were at currently. Most intended to go to more than one: 52 (39%) said they intended to go to two and 57 (43%) said they intended to go to three or more.

Image, graph showing the number of festivals people intended to go to
How many festivals people were going to this season. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

More than three quarters of KnowYourStuffNZ clients have had past experiences with drugs that were not what they were thought to be

Similar to last year’s survey, we found that 80% of respondents have had an experience where a drug they took was not what they thought it was.
View last year’s survey results

People who had taken a substance that wasn’t what they thought it was described unpleasant and frightening experiences

Some festival-goers have allowed us to re-tell their experiences of when they’d taken drugs that have not been ‘as advertised’. We collected these in the Stories Box (see ‘How we collected these results’ section). Many people were under the impression that they were taking MDMA, but judging from the symptoms they described, it is unlikely that the substance they’d taken was MDMA.

Their experiences are consistent with what we would expect to see with some cathinones, but without testing the substances in question we can’t know if this was the case.

Read more about cathinones on the New Zealand Drug Foundation website

Common things people have mentioned feeling are ‘wired’, ‘tweaked’, ‘anxious’, ‘paranoid’, and ‘unable to sleep’. Some people felt sick to the point of vomiting, had muscle spasms and heart palpitations, and have likened the experience to being ‘on meth’.

Another time I brought white powder that was meant to be MDMA… however it did not feel the same as the real thing. Side effects were insane… hot and cold sweats, muscle spasms, heart palpitations although it still felt like a stimulant beforehand

Yes. Buying MDMA powder and was either cut or something difference (sic). Was a terrible come down with bad anxiety and un-able (sic) to sleep

Within about an hour we both felt extremely high. This lasted all night and most of the next day. We weren’t able to sleep & the come down was awful. The room spun, we both started vomiting and it was very unpleasant.

Most KnowYourStuffNZ clients have not previously used drug health or harm reduction services

KnowYourStuffNZ reaches many people who are new to drug checking services. For most, KnowYourStuffNZ is their first contact with any kind of drug health or harm reduction service. The people using KnowYourStuffNZ’s services are not the target demographic for other drug harm reduction services in New Zealand (such as the needle exchange and rehabilitation and addiction services), but still need practical harm reduction advice.

  • 71% of survey respondents said that this was their first time visiting KnowYourStuffNZ.
  • 91% 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).

KnowYourStuffNZ influences longer term behaviour changes, with people becoming less likely to mix drugs and more likely to seek testing and take less of a substance

We know that drug checking services influence people’s decisions about whether to take a particular substance. Our analysis has consistently shown that people are much less likely to take a substance when testing shows it is not what they thought it was.

We also want to know if KnowYourStuffNZ services influence people’s drug-related behaviours outside the events we test at. We provide extensive harm reduction advice alongside drug checking, aiming to educate people about safer approaches to drugs. If this advice is effective, we would expect to see changes in people’s longer term behaviours.

We asked the 40 respondents who had visited KnowYourStuffNZ before if they agreed or disagreed with four statements about changes in their drug-related behaviours.

  • 85% agreed with the statement: “As a result of my previous visit/s to KnowYourStuffNZ, I am now more likely to get my drugs tested before taking them”.
  • 48% agreed with the statement: “As a result of my previous visit/s to KnowYourStuffNZ, I am now less likely to mix drugs”.
  • 41% agreed with the statement: “As a result of my previous visit/s to KnowYourStuffNZ, when I take drugs, I am now more likely to take a smaller amount”.
  • 15% agreed with the statement: “As a result of my previous visit/s to KnowYourStuffNZ, I now take drugs less often”.
Image, chart showing the effect of KnowYourStuffNZ's harm reduction advice on people's drug-taking behaviours
Effect of KnowYourStuffNZ’s harm reduction advice on people’s drug-taking behaviours CC BY-NC-ND

Via the Stories Box (see ‘How we collected these results’ section) people also described how we’d influenced their attitudes and behaviours around drug taking.
They said that they were more cautious about drugs — who they bought them from, what they used and whether they used their drugs with other substances like alcohol, and were more proactive about discussing drug harm reduction among friends.

More likely to test substances, more likely to talk with others about drug safety

I will probably never take an unknown substance, and info about dosage and self care has led to occasions where I have decided not to partake at all.

Yes, I’m much more mindful of what I use, how I use it, and how to get help.

Unprompted, survey respondents expressed a great deal of support for KnowYourStuffNZ and drug checking services

The final survey question asked for any other comments or suggestions about KnowYourStuffNZ or drug checking in New Zealand. We received 72 comments.
63 were messages of support and praise for the KnowYourStuffNZ team.

absolutely amazing service and grateful for it keeping me safe

the mahi you’re doing is awesome 🙂 lovely to have a safe space for what people will inevitably be doing

the anonymity and respect given to the user by Knowyourstuff staff helps keep people safe

Such a valuable service!

Two spoke about how they and their friends had benefited from visiting KnowYourStuffNZ.

Know Your Stuff enabled me to avoid taking bath salts that we thought was mdma

Opening up the conversation about drugs use (dosage, dangerous combination and a community of people that can identify test and provide education) instead of driving it underground has personally helped me and I have be able to assist my friends that needed help too… Saving lives 100%

16 suggested that drug checking services should be expanded.

Huge fan of your work. Easier access outside festivals would be amazing.

It should be at all major festivals

Five suggested that government support, funding, or clarification of the legality of drug checking should be provided.

Love the work you are doing. Hope the grey areas legally clear the way soon for a legal service

This is a great service that should receiving more support from government

Please fund them! The work they do is invaluable and incredibly important to keeping people safe! Big ups and massive support to the volunteers

Two made suggestions for improvements to KnowYourStuffNZ operations.

Bigger signs

More infographics

How we collected these results


The survey was developed, cognitively tested, and then administered on KnowYourStuffNZ tablets using Survey Anyplace. Clients were asked to complete the survey while they waited for testing. The survey was anonymous and optional and clients’ survey responses were not linked in any way to the results of their testing.

Stories box

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. Fifteen responses were received.

More information

Copies of the survey questionnaire and stories box questions can be supplied on request.


The survey findings have the following caveats.

The events we visited in 2019-2020 were different to the events visited in 2018-2019

KnowYourStuffNZ was present at more events in the 2019-2020 season than in the 2018-2019 season. While we did go to some of the same events in both seasons, differences in what events we attended may have affected our sampled demographic.

We received fewer responses than last year and the sample size is low for some questions

Not every client was surveyed, and this year we received half as many responses as last year. This is probably because KnowYourStuffNZ volunteers did not consistently offer the survey to clients. So fewer clients were given the opportunity to respond. We are working to address this in our volunteer training.
This means that:

  1. only a small number of responses were received for some questions, and
  2. responses may be biased towards attendees at events where the survey was more consistently canvassed.

Findings should be viewed with these caveats in mind.

Bearing these caveats in mind, however, the results do provide a useful indication of the types of people using KYSNZ services, their drug-related experiences, and attitudes towards drug checking.

This report was compiled by Andrea Knox and Rhiannon Davies.


KnowYourStuffNZ is not-for-profit social enterprise run entirely by volunteers. We are committed to providing evidence-based harm reduction services. If you love what we do, please consider making a donation.

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