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.


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


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


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


LSD or another indole

Cathinones (bath salts)


Phenethylamines (research chemicals such as 2C-B)


Dissociatives (such as ketamine)


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


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.

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