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?
This summer, the vast majority of people thought they had MDMA or LSD. Much less common were cocaine, 2C-B, ketamine, and methylone.
What do people actually have?
This summer, 31% of the drugs that our clients had were not what they expected. This is very different to 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.
This summer, if a sample wasn’t MDMA, it was likely to be cathinones (bath salts). We saw a wide range of these, with butylone and pentylone the most common. These are new substances, first appearing around 2010, and there is little information available about their risks. We also found other cathinones: 4-methylethcathinone, MDPV, mephedrone, methylone, mexedrone, MDPBP, and ethylone. These were often mixed with other cathinones or with substances from other drug families, potentially increasing the risk of harm.
In previous years, up to half of what people hoped was LSD was actually an NBOMe – a much more dangerous family of drugs. This summer, the amount of NBOMe was down to less than 15% of presumed LSD.
We also saw a wide range of other psychoactive substances, 39 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 as desired. 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.