9 facts to dispel myths about drug checking

There has been plenty of misinformation going around about drug checking in the last week. To counter that, here are some facts:

Fact 1. We do not hand drugs back to people after testing.  Testing requires a tiny amount of the substance. It is not handled by the tester at all. The person intending to take a drug places a tiny amount of their drug on the spectrometer and it is destroyed in the process of testing.

Fact 2. We never tell people their drugs are safe. The first thing we say to people is that the safest drug use is not to use drugs at all. Then we have a discussion with each person about the risks of the substance they plan to take. Drug checking facilities provide specific education about the risks of drug use.

Fact 3. The service is not publicly funded. It runs entirely on donations. KnowYourStuffNZ is not seeking public funding. The proposed law change would allow the service to be funded by event ticket sales.

Fact 4. Many people do have their drugs tested when it’s made available to them. We did 800 tests last summer. That is 16x more than our first year.

Fact 5.  Our data this year shows that 62% of people will choose not to take their drugs if it tests for something other than what they thought it was.

Fact 6.  In New Zealand there are over 70 different types of substances being sold as 3-4 types of illegal drugs.

Fact 7. Some of these substances are life threatening and/or much stronger than the substance that people think they are buying. This can cause them to require medical assistance or even to be hospitalised. We can identify these adulterants and excessive doses of known substances.

Fact 8. This isn’t just about testing drugs to reduce harm. This is about collecting data to pass on to medics so that they know what they are dealing with and have a better chance of treating any medical issues correctly.

Fact 9. For many people who use drugs, going to a drug checking tent will be the first time they have had a respectful and informed conversation about the risks. We provide non-judgemental advice and information to help people be safer. That results in people making smarter, more informed decisions about drug use both at events and outside those events.

Our work over five years demonstrates that drug checking reduces harm. We would like to get on with reducing harm. Replacing myths with facts will help.

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