Testing reports

The data in these reports has been collected from different festivals through New Zealand.

Methodology

Initial testing is carried out using reagents such as Marquis and Mandelin, as well as Ehrlich’s for detecting LSD.

More detailed testing at events is carried out using a Bruker ALPHA – a Fourier transform infra-red spectrometer. This uses infra-red light to generate a characteristic absorption spectrum for each sample, allowing the detection of drugs, adulterants, and mixtures.

While the testing is being carried out, our volunteers have free and frank harm reduction conversations with the clients.

Reports

Testing report 2019-2020

Testing report 2018-2019

Testing report 2017-2018

Testing report 2016-2017

2017 – 2018 Testing report

Overall results for the 2017/18 season

Over the 2017/18 summer we tested 445 samples in total at 7 different events. The results of our testing are below. Key results are presented as charts, with a link below each to more detailed data.

What did people think they had?

For the 2017/18 summer, the vast majority of people thought they had MDMA or LSD*. Much less common were ketamine, cocaine, and ‘unknown’ – where people did not know what a substance was and brought it to us for identification. These five groups made up over 90% of samples tested this year.

* A very small number of samples in the MD or indole family that were not MDMA or LSD were included in this group.

link to raw data: presumed_substances_2017_18

Please note that there are some substances in use at events that are not commonly brought in for testing, such as cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms, alcohol, and GHB.

What did people actually have?

For the 2017/18 summer, 21% of the drugs that our clients had were not what they expected. Just over half of these were something completely different, about a quarter had the presumed substance plus extra ingredients, and the rest could not be conclusively identified.

link to csv: cons_with_presumed_2017_18

There were actually 23 samples for which identification was inconclusive, however for 6 of these we were able to at least ascertain that the sample was not as presumed.

Of the 20 samples with extra ingredients, 9 contained additional psychoactives, 2 contained non-psychoactive pharmaceuticals, 5 contained what appeared to be impurities, and 4 contained fillers, binders, or colouring.

Among the substances that were not as presumed, the largest group (40%) were cathinones. Cathinones continue to be one of the main substitutes of concern in the illicit market. Of the cathinones found, one third were n-ethylpentylone.

link to csv: actual_substances_2017_18

83% of the 260 samples presented as MDMA or a close analogue in the MD family were what they were thought to be, and a further 7% contained MDMA but had extra ingredients such as additional psychoactives, impurities or fillers. Of those that did not contain MDMA, just over half (6%) were cathinones. KnowYourStuffNZ provided early warnings about the most common of these, n-ethylpentylone, which has been involved in several hospitalisations.

We identified 4 pills that contained mostly a cathinone with a small amount of MDMA. We think that MDMA may have been added deliberately to alter the result of a reagent test and make the pill appear to be MDMA.

Of the 77 samples thought to be an indole (usually LSD), 86% were what they were thought to be. FTIR cannot detect LSD so these results rely on reagent testing only. We identified only 3 samples of NBOMe, continuing the downward trend for this substance over the past two years.

Of the 38 unknown substances brought to us, just under a third (29%) turned out to be MDMA or a close analogue. 18% contained cathinones, and 16% contained no psychoactive that we could identify. The remainder were a variety of psychoactive substances.

All of the 23 dissociatives we tested were presumed to be ketamine, and 20 of them were. Of the other 3, one was a cathinone and for 2 the testing was inconclusive. Two samples brought to us as unknown tested as methoxetamine (MXE) – a more dangerous dissociative.

Notably, only one of the 6 samples that were thought to be a mix of psychoactives actually contained a mix of psychoactives. None were what they were presumed to be – even the one that was a mixture contained a different substance to what was presumed.

The “other” category includes a selection of infrequently found substances. Ethylphenidate is an analogue of methylphenidate, more commonly known as Ritalin. KnowYourStuffNZ were the first in New Zealand to detect fentanyl as a contaminant in New Zealand’s illicit market.

No psychoactive content was detected in any of the 4 samples brought to us presumed to be pharmaceuticals. This may be because of the low dose of active substance in pharmaceutical tablets.
More detailed information on actual content can be found at the following links:

Presumed MD actual content: pres_MD_actual_content_2017_18
Presumed Indole actual content: pres_Indole_actual_content_2017_18
Presumed Unknown actual content: pres_Unknown_actual_content_2017_18
Presumed Dissociative actual content: pres_Dissociative_actual_content_2017_18
Presumed Cocaine actual content: pres_Cocaine_actual_content_2017_18
Presumed Amphetamine actual content: pres_Amphetamine_actual_content_2017_18
Presumed Other actual content: pres_Other_actual_content_2017_18
Presumed Mixture actual content: pres_Mixture_actual_content_2017_18
Presumed Phenethylamine (research chemicals) actual content: pres_PEA_actual_content_2017_18
Presumed Pharmaceutical actual content: pres_Pharmaceutical_actual_content_2017_18
Presumed GHB/GBL actual content: pres_GHBGBL_actual_content_2017_18

How did testing change people’s decisions?

Compared to last summer, we saw a slight increase in the proportion of people who said they would not take a substance when the result showed it was not what they thought. However, this increase is too small to draw conclusions about whether there is a trend to safer drug use or just random fluctuation.

The number of people willing to take a substance when it contains extra ingredients is quite high at 85% – however it should be noted that these decisions were likely affected by the perceived desirability or danger of the identified ‘extra.’

link to csv: intent_consume_2017_18

This year we also asked clients if this was their first contact with a drug worker or drug health service.  16% of people said they were return clients who had used KnowYourStuff’s services before. Of those who had not seen KnowYourStuff before, 70% said that this visit was their first contact with a drug worker or drug health service – suggesting that we are reaching people who would not otherwise receive harm reduction advice about their potential drug use.

How was this year different from last year?

This year saw an increase in the overall number of substances brought to us, from 330 to 445.

Presumed substances

We saw a higher proportion of presumed MDMA and a reduction in the proportion of LSD. Unknown substances increased slightly along with ketamine and cocaine, and we saw a slightly reduced proportion of phenethylamines (research chemicals).

link to csv: change_presumed_2017_18

Actual substances

We saw a marked increase in the proportion of substances that were what people thought they were – from 68 to 79%. This is in part, but not fully accounted for by the reduction in the proportion that were as presumed but had extra ingredients (from 9-5%), which we believe results largely from improvements in our testing method.

The percentage of samples that were not as presumed almost halved, from 23% to 12%.

We also saw an increase in the proportion of samples for which testing was inconclusive. A quarter of these were presumed pharmaceuticals that may be present in concentrations too low for us to detect. Two fifths were at events where FTIR was not used, and it is possible that the remainder are new substances that are not yet in the FTIR libraries.

link to csv: change_cons_presumed_2017_18

Changes in the extent to which MD and indole substances were as presumed

The proportion of samples that were as the client presumed increased for both of our main substances, MD (MDMA, MDEA or MDA) and indoles (usually LSD). Of particular note is the proportion of MDMA that was as presumed, which increased from 63 to 83%.

The proportion of indoles that were as presumed increased from 81-86%.

link to csv: change_MD_Indole_cons_presumed_2017_18

Overall change in the substances detected in testing

There was an increase in the overall proportion of MDMA from 40% to 54%. This results from an increase in the amount of presumed MDMA that was brought to us, and from the increase in the proportion that actually were MDMA. Also consistent with this increase was a decrease in the proportion of samples that turned out to be cathinones, from 11 to 7%, cathinones being a common substitute for MDMA.

There was a decrease in the proportion of indoles from 26 to 15%, consistent with the decrease in the amount of presumed LSD brought for testing.

We saw an increase in the proportion of dissociatives (ketamine) from 2-6%, consistent with the increase the amount of presumed dissociatives that were brought to us.

There was a negligible change in the proportion of cocaine, and a slight decrease in the proportion of amphetamines.

link to csv: change_actual_2017_18

Data analysis by Andrea Knox.

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

2016 – 2017 Testing report

Which drugs have we found so far?

Illicit drugs in New Zealand are of low and fluctuating quality. We have seen that what is available at festivals varies from year to year.

What do people think they have?

For the 2016/17 summer we carried out 330 tests. The vast majority of people thought they had MDMA or LSD. Much less common were cocaine, 2C-B, ketamine, and methylone.

presumed_substances

Please note that there are some substances in use at events that are not commonly brought in for testing, such as cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms, alcohol, and GHB.

What do people actually have?

For the 2016/17 summer, 30% of the drugs that our clients had were not what they expected. This is very different from previous years. For the 2015/16 summer, 60% were not as expected and in the 2014/15 summer, 80% of drugs were not what people presumed them to be.

Consistency with presumed content 2016/2017

cons_with_presumed

For the 2016/17 summer, if a sample wasn’t MDMA, it was likely to be a cathinone (‘bath salts’). We saw a wide range of these, with n-ethylpentylone, a new and unpredictable cathinone, the most common. Other identified cathinones included: methylone, mexedrone, 1-methylepentedrone, and pentedrone.  Concerningly, we also found two distinct new cathinones that have not yet been identified and have not been found by other testing groups overseas.  Cathinones are new substances, first appearing in NZ around 2010, and there is little information available about their risks.  We also found cathinones mixed with other substances, potentially increasing the risk of harm.

In previous years, up to half of what people thought was LSD was actually an NBOMe – a much more dangerous family of drugs. This summer, the amount of NBOMe was down to less than 10% of presumed LSD.

We also saw a wide range of other psychoactive substances, 37 in total. Occasionally present were amphetamines, cocaine, piperazines (such as BZP), drugs in the 2C family, and pharmaceuticals.

Almost every sample (99%)  that we could identify did contain some psychoactive, even if it was not the desired substance. Samples that did not contain psychoactives instead contained substances such as glucose, sucrose, and aspirin.

Using a combination of reagent testing and FT-IR spectroscopy, we could identify over 95% of samples.

Actual substances identified 2016/2017

actual_substances

Here is more detail of what people actually had when they thought they had:

MDMA or MDA

LSD or another indole

Cathinones (bath salts)

Amphetamines

Phenethylamines (research chemicals such as 2C-B)

NBOMes

Dissociatives (such as ketamine)

Cocaine

Mixtures (such as MDMA/mephedrone)

Other substances not categorised above

Substance unknown before testing

Finally, here is a chart showing the decisions made by our clients about whether or not to take a substance after it had been tested and they’d received the results:

Clients’ intention to take a substance after testing

intent_consume_reruns

Half of people changed their mind about ingesting a substance when they knew it wasn’t what they expected.

  • KnowYourStuffNZ carries out drug checking at events in conjunction with New Zealand Drug Foundation, who own the FT-IR spectrometer we use.

double logo

2018 – 2019 Testing report

Over the 2018/19 season, KnowYourStuffNZ attended 13 events and tested a total of 805 samples. This is nearly double the amount of testing that we did last year.

Here are our drug checking results from this season (from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019).

Expansion of KnowYourStuffNZ testing activities

We have scaled up our provision of testing this year in response to increasing demand for our services.

This year we tested 805 samples at 13 events.
In 2017/18 we tested 445 samples at 7 events.
In 2016/17 we tested 330 samples at 9 events.

87% of this season’s samples were what people thought they were. People brought us more MDMA than in previous years, more of that MDMA was actually MDMA, and people were less willing to take drugs when those drugs were not what they expected.

What changes are we seeing in people’s behaviour?

We are seeing an apparent trend towards more people saying that they will not take a substance when it is not what they thought it was. This season, 62% of people said they would not take a substance that was not what they expected it to be.

At this point we don’t know what underlies this trend. Possibilities include:

  • More clients may be taking harm reduction messages from KnowYourStuffNZ seriously.
  • There may be a trend towards the substances that are not as presumed being less desirable and/or more dangerous substances.
  • As MDMA becomes more available, people may be more willing to discard other substances because they know they can get MDMA instead.
  • There may be some random fluctuation in the results.

Link to raw data: change_intent.csv

What did people think they had?

As in previous years, most substances brought to us were presumed to be MDMA. Indoles (mostly LSD) were the second most common type of presumed substance, followed by dissociatives (mostly ketamine).

Link to raw data: presumed_substances.csv

Please note that some substances used at events are not commonly brought in for testing, such as cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms, alcohol, and GHB/GBL.

What did people actually have?

The most common substance was MDMA, followed by indoles (usually LSD) and dissociatives (usually ketamine). We also found 7 mixtures of MDMA and n-ethylpentylone (a potentially dangerous cathinone). This takes the total number of samples containing cathinones up to 24, 3% of the total. When samples were not MDMA, more than half of those samples contained n-ethylpentylone.

Thanks to Andrea Knox, we now have an online visualisation of our season’s results for you to explore.

Link to raw data: actual_substances.csv

Link to raw data: pres_Amphetamine_actual_content_2018_19.csv 

Link to raw data: pres_Cocaine_actual_content_2018_19.csv

Link to raw data: pres_Dissociative_actual_content_2018_19.csv

Link to raw data: pres_Indole_actual_content_2018_19.csv

Link to raw data: pres_MD_actual_content_2018_19.csv

Link to raw data: pres_Mixture_actual_content_2018_19.csv

Link to raw data: pres_Other_actual_content_2018_19.csv

Link to raw data: pres_PEA_actual_content_2018_19.csv

Link to raw data: pres_PharmHerbal_actual_content_2018_19.csv

Link to raw data: pres_Unknown_actual_content_2018_19.csv

How often were substances actually what people thought they were?

This year, 87% of the substances tested consistently with what they were supposed to be. This is an increase of 8% compared to the previous year. Some of these samples contained non-harmful fillers, colours, or binders in addition to the psychoactive.

6% gave results that were not consistent with the presumed substance.

5% gave results that were partially consistent with the presumed substance. These samples generally contained the presumed psychoactive plus other substances (additional psychoactives, impurities, or non-psychoactive pharmaceutical or herbal substances).

In a few cases where the client thought they had a mix of two psychoactives, the samples contained only one of those psychoactives. For instance, we saw large pills that were claimed to be a mix of MDMA and ketamine. These contained only MDMA, but in very high doses. We categorised these as ‘partially consistent with presumed’.

Link to raw data: cons_with_presumed.csv

How did testing change people’s decisions?

This season, 62% of clients stated that they did not intend to consume their substance after a negative test, that is if testing determined that the substance was not as presumed.

Link to raw data: intent_consume.csv

How did people intend to take substances?

When asked how they intended to take the substance, four out of five people (78%) said that they intended to ingest it orally or sublingually (under the tongue).

15% said that they intended to snort it. 5% were unsure whether they would take it orally or snort it. 3% said that they would use other methods, such as smoking or vaporising the substance, or inserting it anally.

Link to raw data: consumption_method.csv

How did people intend to take different substances?

The following chart shows clients’ intended methods of consumption for the drug families: MD, Indoles, Dissociatives, and Cocaine. There are clear differences between drugs. Most people intending to take MD (usually MDMA) and indoles (usually LSD) will take it orally or sublingually, Most people intending to use dissociatives (usually ketamine) and cocaine will snort it.

“n =” denotes the number of samples in each category.

Link to raw data: consumption_method_by_family.csv

Are we seeing changes in what people think they have?

Over the last 3 years, we have seen an increase in the presumed MDMA brought to us and a decrease in presumed LSD. The proportion of presumed dissociatives and cocaine has also increased, but both substances remain uncommon compared to MDMA and LSD.

Link to raw data: change_presumed.csv

What changes are we seeing in the substances that people actually have?

Over the last 3 years, we have seen an increase in the proportion of MDMA and a decrease in the proportion of LSD and cathinones.

Some of this is due to the change in the events we have been attending, from smaller festivals where we saw a wider range of substances to larger events where we see a focus on more common substances.

Taking into account the 7 mixtures of MDMA and n-ethylpentylone, the total proportion of samples containing cathinones (3% in 2019) is still a decrease compared to previous years.
The proportions of dissociatives (usually ketamine) and cocaine have increased, but both remain uncommon compared to MDMA and LSD.

Link to raw data: change_actual.csv

What changes are we seeing in the proportion of substances that are what they are supposed to be?

Over the last three years we have seen an increase in the proportion of substances that were what they were supposed to be.

In 2016/17, 68% of substances tested consistently with what they were supposed to be, compared to 79% in 2017/18 and 87% this year (2018/19).

Link to raw data: change_cons_presumed.csv

Are there changes in the proportion of MD and LSD samples that are what they are supposed to be?

For both MDMA and LSD, we have seen an increase in the proportion of samples that tested consistently with what they were supposed to be.

MDMA
There has been an increase in the proportion of MDMA that is actually MDMA. This year, 90% of samples brought to us as MDMA actually were MDMA, and MDMA was more likely than most other substances to be as-presumed.

One concern that KnowYourStuffNZ raised this summer was the increasing number of high-dose MDMA pills. 36 out of 518 MDMA samples contained two or more doses in the pill.

The decrease in the proportion of MDMA that was ‘partially consistent with presumed’ probably results from improvements to our testing method between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

LSD
For LSD and other indoles, 92% of samples brought to us this year were what they were supposed to be.

Other substances
There has also been an increase in the percentage of non-MD samples that were as-presumed, although these are a small proportion of the tests that we do.

Link to raw data: change_MD_Indole_cons_presumed.csv

 

2019 – 2020 Testing report

KnowYourStuffNZ provides drug related harm reduction services at events around New Zealand, including drug checking. The result of every test is recorded and each year we collate our results across the event season, analysing:

  • what people thought they had,
  • what they actually had, and
  • what decisions they made about taking the substances

KnowYourstuff activity, 2019-20

This season’s data covers the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. KnowYourStuffNZ was at 22 events during this period and tested a total of 1368 samples.
This is a 70% increase on the number of samples we tested in 2018-19.
KnowYourStuffNZ’s workload has grown rapidly over the last four years:

  • In 2016-17 we tested 330 samples at 9 events
  • In 2017-18 we tested 445 samples at 7 events
  • In 2018-19 we tested 805 samples at 13 events
  • In 2019-20 we tested 1,368 samples at 22 events

In 2019-20, 195 of our 1368 samples were tested ‘back of house’. These samples were found or confiscated by event security and we tested them so that we could publish an alert if dangerous substances were found. The people who had possessed these samples before they were confiscated were not present during testing and these samples are therefore excluded from some of our analysis as we did not have information on what the substance was thought to be.

The remaining 1173 samples were brought to us by event participants for our ‘front of house’ service.

What drugs did people think they had?

As in previous years, most of the samples brought to us were thought to be MDMA. The next most common presumed substance was LSD, followed by ketamine.

Note that some substances used at events are not commonly brought in for testing, including cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms, alcohol, and GHB/GBL.

Image, chart readout of the drug types people thought they had grouped by drug family
The types of substances people thought they had. CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

How often were substances what people thought they were?

This year, 86% of the substances tested consistently with what clients thought they were. This is a similar result to last year and an increase on previous years.

8% of samples gave results that were not consistent with what clients thought they had.

4% gave results that were partially consistent. These samples usually contained the presumed psychoactive plus other substances (additional psychoactives, impurities, or non-psychoactive pharmaceutical or herbal substances). In a few cases, the client thought they had a mix of two psychoactives, but the sample in fact contained only one.

Testing was inconclusive for the remaining 2% of samples.

What did people actually have?

What we found in our ‘front of house’ testing

The most common substance was MDMA, followed by indoles (usually LSD) and dissociatives (usually ketamine).

We found a number of higher risk substances, as follows.

  • Cathinones (2% of substances) were of particular concern, especially:
    • n-ethylpentylone, which has been associated with deaths overseas and mass hospitalisations in New Zealand
    • eutylone, which is a new substance with unknown risks.
  • Mixtures of psychoactive substances (2%) were of concern because some substances interact to increase the risk of harm, and because some of the mixtures contained dangerous substances. Our main concerns were:
    • Mixtures of MDMA and other substances, which can almost never be detected with reagent testing as the MDMA reaction is so strong that it masks the other reactions.
    • The presence of risky substances in the mixtures, such as cathinones.
    • Mixtures of stimulants (such as MDMA, cocaine, caffeine and cathinones), which increase the risk of heart problems and psychosis.
    • The greater unpredictability of mixtures in general.
  • We tested one sample that contained the dangerous synthetic cannabinoid, 5F-MDMB_PINACA.

Image, chart of what people actually had
What people actually had. CC BY-NC-ND

High dose MDMA pills

Not including confiscated drugs, this season we found 40 pressed pills that we estimated to contain 2 or more doses of MDMA (at least 150mg). These pills made up 5% of the MDMA that we found. We also found two high-dose mixtures: one contained caffeine plus two or more doses of MDMA and the other contained n-ethylpentylone plus two or more doses of MDMA.

This is roughly similar to the 2018-19 season, where 7% of the MDMA that we found contained two or more doses.

What we found in our ‘back of house’ testing of confiscated substances

KnowYourStuffNZ advocates for ‘front-of house’ testing as a better option than testing confiscated drugs as it allows for harm reduction advice to users and it provides a clearer picture of what drugs people are actually taking (as opposed to confiscated substances, which are often peoples’ medications, vitamins, or other non-psychoactive substances).

While we found a similar proportion of MDMA in our ‘back of house’ testing, a considerably higher proportion of these samples were non-psychoactive substances and pharmaceuticals. This is likely to be because security take a precautionary approach given that the content of a pill cannot be determined from its appearance, and thus confiscate both substances that are and are not psychoactive.

Among the confiscated drugs that we tested, we found 16 pressed pills that contained 2 or more doses of MDMA. We included this information in our 2020-21 warnings about certain pills.

Read more about the multidose pills we found in our library

Image, graph of confiscated substances
Confiscated substances. CC BY-NC-ND

How did testing change people’s decisions?

This season, when a substance was not what they thought it was, 52% of clients said that they would not take it.

In the chart below, “n =” denotes the number of samples in each category.

Image, Chart of intentions to take when substances were as presumed, and when substances was not as presumed
Intentions stated after testing. CC BY-NC-ND

Why did people choose to take a substance when testing showed it was not what they thought it was?

When a substance was not what they thought it was, and the client said they would take it, we asked them why. Only 21 responses to this question were received, so our findings are indicative only. We found that:

  • 76% (16) said that they intended to take it because they considered the substance to be desirable. Most of these were cases where testing showed that the substance was MDMA or ketamine.
  • 14% (3) said that they intended to take it because they had consumed it before without problems.
  • One of the remaining 10% (2 people) said that they didn’t consider the substance to be dangerous. The other did not give a clear reason.

Image, chart of reasons people gave to take substance when it was not as presumed
Reasons people gave to still consume the substance when it was not as presumed. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Consistent with the above results, we find that more people are likely to say they will take certain drugs when they aren’t what they thought.

When we collate our results across all years of operation (to give us larger numbers to work with), we find that, among samples that were not what people thought they were:

  • LSD, cocaine, MDMA, amphetamines and dissociatives (mostly ketamine) may be more likely to be taken, with more than half of people saying they will or might take it.
  • Mixtures may also be more likely to be taken, but there is diversity among the mixtures we found and responses varied for different mixtures.
  • People may be less likely to take non-psychoactive substances, pharmaceuticals, and the more dangerous substances such as cathinones and NBOMes.

These results are summarized in the chart below. While the overall numbers are low for some substances, findings are consistent with preliminary results from some statistical analysis that we have underway. Preliminary findings from this analysis suggest that people’s choices about whether to take a substance are influenced both by what drug they have and by whether it’s what they thought it was. We will be publishing the results of this analysis later in 2020.

Image, Chart of intention to take grouped by substance family
Intention to take by substance family. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Consumption method – how did people intend to take substances?

Different consumption methods are associated with different risks, and clients are asked how they intend to take a substance so as to inform the harm reduction advice that they’re given.

  • 77% of clients said that they intended to take their substance orally or sublingually (under the tongue).
  • 18% said that they intended to snort the substance.
  • 5% said that they were unsure about whether they would take it orally or snort it, or said that they would use other methods, such as smoking or vaporising the substance, or inserting it anally.

Image, graph showing intended substance consumption methods
Intended consumption methods. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The following chart shows clients’ intended methods of consumption for the drug families: MD (mostly MDMA), Indoles (mostly LSD), Dissociatives (mostly ketamine), and Cocaine.

There are clear differences between drugs. Most people intending to take MDMA or LSD will take it orally or sublingually. Most people intending to use ketamine or cocaine will snort it.

In the chart below, “n =” denotes the number of samples in each category.

Image, graph showing consumption methods by substance family
Consumption method by family. CC By-NC-ND 4.0

Are we seeing changes over time in the proportion of substances that are what people thought they were?

This season, 86% of substances tested consistently with what clients thought they were. This is similar to last season (2018-19), where 87% of samples tested consistently. In 2016-17 and 2017-18 the proportion was lower, at 68% and 79%, respectively.

Image, graph showing how many substances were as presumed annually from 2016-2020
Percentage of substances that were consistent with their presumed content. CC BY-NC-ND

Change over time in the proportion of MD and Indole samples that were what they were thought to be

MD family (mostly MDMA)

Between 2016-17 and 2018-19, there was an increase in the proportion of presumed MDMA that was actually MDMA: from 63% to 90%. In 2019-20 the proportion remained at 90%. MDMA was more likely than most other substances to be as-presumed.

The decrease in the proportion of MDMA that was ‘partially consistent with presumed’ probably results from improvements to our testing method between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

Indole family (mostly LSD)

For LSD and other indoles, 84% of samples brought to us this year were what clients thought they were. This is a decrease from 92% in 2018-19. This decrease mostly relates to the non-LSD substances in this family. 90% of the presumed LSD tested consistently with LSD, while only 56% of the substances that were presumed to be other indoles tested consistently with what clients thought they were.

Dissociative family (mostly ketamine)

We have seen an increase in the proportion of dissociatives that test consistently with what clients thought they were. However, this result should be viewed with caution as the number of dissociatives tested in earlier years was low. In 2019-20, 91% of the presumed dissociatives tested consistently with what they clients thought they were.

Image, change in consistency with presumed substance over time by drug family
Change in consistency with presumed substance over time by drug family. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Are we seeing changes over time in the substances that people have?

Over the three years to 2018-19, we saw an increase in the proportion of MDMA up to two thirds of our samples, and the proportion of MDMA remains at around two thirds in 2019-20.

Dissociatives (mostly ketamine) have also increased steadily over the last four years and they are now our third most common type of substance, only slightly less prevalent than indoles.

We have seen a decrease in the proportion of LSD and cathinones. Taking into account that we found 4 mixtures of MDMA and a cathinone this year, the total proportion of samples containing cathinones (2%) is still a decrease on previous years. This is a positive development, given the risks associated with cathinones.

Image, line graph showing changes in substances over time grouping by drug family
Changes in substances over time grouping by family. CC BY-NC-ND

Change over time in whether people say they will take a substance when it’s not what they thought

While there was an apparent trend, in our first three years of operation, towards more people saying that they would not take a substance when it was not what they thought it was, this trend has not continued into 2019-20.
As stated last year, factors underlying the differences between years may include:

  • Random fluctuation in the results, especially given the small numbers of substances that were not what clients thought they were.
  • Changes in the extent to which the substances that are not what clients thought they were are desirable or dangerous.
  • Changes in peoples’ willingness to discard substances that are not what they thought. For example, if MDMA is more available, people may be more willing to discard other substances when they know they can get MDMA instead.
  • Changes in the effectiveness of KnowYourStuffNZ’s harm reduction messages.

Image, graph showing amount of people changing their minds about consuming their substances when they were not as presumed
People that decide not to take their substance when it is not what they thought it was. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Further information

You can explore the results further in:

This report was compiled by Andrea Knox and Katie Double.

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