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.

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