Nosebleeds are the least of your worries – why snorting is a bad idea

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Remember when you were four and your Mum used to tell you not to put things up your nose?  Turns out lots of kiwis didn’t listen. According to Adam Winstock of the Global Drug Survey, 30% of kiwis who use MDMA insufflate (snort) it. That’s nearly twice the global average.

There’s a general view out there that snorting MDMA gives you more ‘bang for buck’ because when snorted the high comes on faster and more intensely.  However it also wears off faster, leading to higher likelihood of redosing – so over the course of an evening a user may end up taking more than usual, which is both expensive and risky. Snorting also carries its own set of risks:

  • Putting dry, potentially irritant powders on the nasal lining can lead to injury, loss of sense of smell, and long term respiratory problems.
  • When you snort a substance much of it goes directly to the bloodstream, bypassing the stomach and liver filters. This is what leads to the faster, more intense high.  However this lack of filtering can also exacerbate the negative effects of the drug, such as anxiety and nausea.
  • Faster routes of administration are associated with higher risk of forming dependence.
  • What if it’s not the drug you think it is?

This last one is a real concern in New Zealand. By now it’s old news that cathinone substitution is an issue here. We’ve talked about it at length this summer. We’ve found cathinones in samples presumed to be MDMA and in ones obtained as cocaine, both substances commonly snorted by kiwis.

Remember how we said above that a faster, more intense high can also exacerbate the negative effects? If the ‘MDMA’ is actually n-ethylpentylone and you snort 100mg of it, you’ve just bypassed the stomach and liver filters on a triple dose and you’re most likely in for a faster, more intense, up to 36-hour-long very unpleasant time that may well land you in hospital or worse. 


We hear this story far too often – someone snorts what they think is MDMA and then comes to us with a list of scary symptoms ending with “That definitely wasn’t MDMA.” The bottom line is that these people are lucky to be alive. While they have probably learned their lesson, there are still many people out there who snort powders without knowing how risky it is.

To lower your chances of death, remember the following:

  • Listen to your Mum – don’t put random stuff up your nose
  • Don’t let your friends put random stuff up their noses either
  • Unless it’s been tested, it’s *all* random stuff.

Stay safe out there NZ.

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

Deliberately Deceptive Drug Mixtures Found This Summer

Testing by KnowYourStuffNZ this summer has revealed that some festival goers have been sold deliberately deceptive mixtures of drugs. Some mixtures were sold as MDMA but contained only small amounts of MDMA alongside more toxic chemicals. Some mixtures were sold as cocaine but instead contained mixes of stimulants and anaesthetics.

Our testing has shown that the quality of substances sold on the illicit market is variable and poor. In many cases, substances sold are not as expected. However, this summer we have seen mixtures that appear to be made up to deliberately mislead people.

For example, cocaine produces a numbing effect in the nose and mouth. We have seen mixtures that contain no cocaine at all but only benzocaine and cathinones (“bath salts”). The benzocaine (a local anaesthetic found in cough lozenges) produces the numbing effect; the cathinones duplicate the stimulant effects. In these cases, the cathinones were n-ethylbuphedrone and ethylmethcathinone, which have longer duration and more toxic effects than cocaine.

Several samples supposedly of MDMA were a mix of MDMA and cathinones. We believe that these mixtures were made up to fool reagent testing – the MDMA produces dark colours with commonly-available reagent tests, masking the colours from the unwanted cathinones. These combinations are particularly risky due to the different potencies of these substances. One sample seen was 50/50 mix of MDMA and n-ethylpentylone (a new substance that we called “this summer’s crap drug”). An active dose of MDMA is around 100 mg; a dose of n-ethylpentylone is 30 mg. If someone weighs out 100 mg of this mixture, they will take nearly two doses of n-ethylpentylone (already a risky dose) and only half a dose of MDMA..

Inevitably, unregulated markets have poor quality control and unscrupulous dealers will sell products that maximise their profits, putting consumers’ health at risk. Pill testing allows drug users to discover the quality of their purchases and avoid these risks.  We recommend that all drug users test before they ingest any substance.

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KnowYourStuffNZ uses both reagent testing and infra-red spectrometry to discover these mixtures. However, an infra-red spectrometer costs $50,000 and this is not accessible outside of events that KnowYourStuffNZ attends.

Reagents for testing are available for much more affordable prices from suppliers such as Hempstore, but as the mixtures found this summer demonstrate, reagents have their limits. They would have identified the substitute cocaine; they would not have detected the adulterated MDMA. We still recommend reagent testing to drug users despite the limitations, as some testing is better than none – however the results from reagent testing are no guarantee and all substances should be approached with caution.

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

“Faulty batch” warning not helpful

A warning has been released by Canterbury DHB after 9 people presented at Christchurch hospital Saturday night.

Unfortunately it appears that the DHB is speculating about what the people had taken in the absence of knowing for certain, and have released a vague warning about a ‘faulty batch’. There is no such thing as a faulty batch.

KnowYourStuffNZ in its testing of ‘MDMA’ this year has found:

Any of these would have associated potential dangers, but none of them are a ‘faulty batch of MDMA’.

The information in the alert is of almost no use to users. The warning contains no mention that the substance could be something completely different, no description of the substance, and no information about what sort of symptoms a user may experience that would signify danger. This warning might as well say “Don’t take MDMA.” Such an approach has been entirely ineffective at stopping people taking MDMA to date.

This is why New Zealand needs a properly-functioning Early Warning System, with protocols for what an effective, harm-reduction-focused warning looks like. At the very least, a warning should contain:

  • a description of the substance so users know what to avoid
  • information about the content of the substance – if this is not known, that should be made clear and warnings should refrain from speculation
  • information about symptoms that signal danger.

We have released four alerts about substances of concern since the beginning of 2018. Right now, we are NZ’s Early Warning System. This is not good enough. The NZ government has been talking for years about implementing one, but the talk has not resulted in action. Warnings are left to DHBs with limited knowledge of illicit drugs and harm reduction, and community groups such as ourselves.

The government needs to step up and progress the national Early Warning System immediately. Meanwhile, we will continue to release information about substances of concern as they arise.

On the topic of the Christchurch mystery drug, our advice is:

  • Approach all unknown substances with extreme caution.
  • Unless they have been tested and confirmed to contain the desired substance and only the desired substance, they are *all* unknown.
  • Substitution, adulteration, and extremely high dose pills are all currently being found in the market.
  • When using, it is much better to take a fraction of a dose and await developments (at least an hour) than to take the whole thing without knowing what it is and risk a trip to the hospital.

Be careful out there, folks.

[EDIT: Three weeks after thirteen people were hospitalised in Christchurch after ingesting this mystery substance, NZ Police confirmed that the substance was n-ethylpentylone. We published our warning about this substance two weeks before this event and five weeks before the Police. This shows that KnowYourStuffNZ is already acting as New Zealand’s drug early warning system. However, we are constrained by the legal grey area that we operate in. Clarifying the law and allowing us to operate openly will save lives.]

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

More drugs do not mean more fun

There are still plenty of festivals left before the end of the season and KnowYourStuffNZ would like to remind everyone that you do not need to take all the drugs all at once. In fact, you’re much less likely to die if you don’t.

In New Zealand, the vast majority of deaths associated with illicit drugs are found to have involved more than one substance. The most common factor in these deaths is alcohol – many people don’t see alcohol as a real drug, but it’s objectively one of the more harmful, and it’s a bad idea to mix it with many other substances.

In particular the combination of alcohol and GHB is extremely dangerous as they act on the same receptors in the brain. Together they slow your breathing. If you take too much, you stop breathing and die. This summer, several drug related hospitalisations we are aware of have been due to this combination.

TripSit’s combination chart indicates that alcohol is unsafe or dangerous when taken with many of the other drugs we most commonly see at festivals – MDMA, ketamine, cocaine, and cathinones (such as methylone and n-ethylpentylone).

Stimulants are the other major group of ‘festival drugs’ that shouldn’t be used with other things – and particularly not with other stimulants. They increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature, and put a lot of strain on your systems. Adding more stimulants can greatly increase the risks. Amphetamines, MDMA, cocaine, and cathinones (“bath salts”) are all stimulants. And let’s not forget caffeine, which can be dangerous in very high doses or in combination with other stimulants.

Apart from the immediate stresses on the body, stimulants also tend to reduce appetite and prevent sleep. Mixing drugs and then not taking care of basic bodily needs is one of the major factors in drug related problems we see at events.

Put simply, combining drugs is an expensive and often pointless way to risk your life. You can’t enjoy a festival if you are unconscious or have been rushed to hospital.

We strongly advise against combining drugs. To reduce risk of harm, we suggest the following:

  • only one thing at a time
  • in between sessions: Rest, Eat, Rehydrate.
  • stay alive!
KnowYourStuffNZ is a not-for-profit social enterprise funded entirely by donations from the community. If you value our work, please donate.

tripsit interaction guide

This summer’s crap drug: n-ethylpentylone

If it isn’t MDMA, then it’s very likely to be a new drug called n-ethylpentylone, testing by KnowYourStuffNZ has revealed.

Testing at festivals has shown that around one quarter of the drugs that people believe to be MDMA (ecstasy) are not as expected. The most most common substitutions for MDMA come from the cathinone family of stimulants (“bath salts”) and the most common cathinone seen this year is n-ethylpentylone. KnowYourStuffNZ have seen this drug at every event we have attended this summer.

N-ethylpentylone is a new substance, also known as ephylone and βk-EPDB. It was first seen in the USA in 2016. KnowYourStuffNZ testing found small amounts  in New Zealand in early 2017, and it arrived at UK festivals for their 2017 summer. Testing at events this summer is showing it to be much more available now, often found as white or coloured powder that looks exactly the same as samples confirmed to be MDMA.

This stimulant produces some of the same effects as MDMA, but users have described the experience as “seedy”, “cracky”, and much less pleasant. Physical effects can include raised pulse and blood pressure, high body temperature, convulsions, acidosis, and rapid muscle breakdown. Psychological effects include agitation, paranoia, compulsion to redose, difficulty sleeping for up to 36 hours, and temporary psychosis. As this drug is so new, little can be said about the health risks of long-term use. We also do not know much about risks of mixing this with other substances but like other cathinones it should not be taken with alcohol.

A particular risk is that n-ethylpentylone is significantly more potent than MDMA so it is very easy to take too much. A common dose for MDMA is around 100 milligrams, whereas a dose for n-ethylpentylone can be as little as 30 milligrams. If people believe they have MDMA and take 100 milligrams of n-ethylpentylone, then they are going to be in a very risky situation.

This drug has already caused deaths overseas. KnowYourStuffNZ recommends that you do not take this drug and that you test any substance before you take it.

[EDIT: Two weeks after KnowYourStuffNZ published this alert on n-ethylpentylone, thirteen people were hospitalised in Christchurch after ingesting a mystery substance. Five weeks after we published this alert, NZ Police confirmed that the substance was n-ethylpentylone. This shows that KnowYourStuffNZ is already acting as New Zealand’s drug early warning system. However, we are constrained by the legal grey area that we operate in. Clarifying the law and allowing us to operate openly will save lives.]

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