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

Know Your Stuff-36

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.

“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.

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.

 

Cathinones still a concern for 2018 festival season

The media has been making much of our alert that there may be MDMA out there in higher doses than usual. One thing that’s being somewhat under-reported is the fact that we are also seeing substitution of MDMA for cathinones at roughly the same rate as last season.

What this means is that approximately 1 in 5 samples we’ve tested so far that were supposed to be MDMA, are something completely different. The thing they have mostly turned out to be is one or another of the cathinones (bath salts is the name that seems to be sticking for these).

Cathinones we’ve found so far this year:

  • n-ethylpentylone
  • n-ethylbuphedrone
  • methylone
  • 4-methylethcathinone
  • methcathinone
  • one example of a cathinone not yet listed in the database that we also encountered last season. This one is completely new and we have no idea what it is.

There is no way of knowing by looking at a sample whether it’s MDMA or one of these potentially risky substitutes. Even if reagents detect a cathinone, there is no way of discerning between them without further testing.

One of the biggest risks with cathinones is that people are usually expecting MDMA, and when they don’t get the feeling they are expecting, they will often assume they have a low-dose or ‘dud’ pill, and then take more. With any drug this can be risky, but with unknown cathinones it’s even more so because they all have different active and toxic doses, so taking extra could be the difference between disappointment and a trip to the hospital, or worse.

Please, never assume you have what you think you have – test before you ingest. It could save your life.

More basic info about cathinones at the NZ Drug Foundation website – please note that we have seen cathinones in all sorts of formats so don’t assume that if it’s not a white powder, you’re safe.

For specific information about individual substances we recommend ErowidTripSit, and PsychonautWiki.

[EDIT] Something else we should mention is that we have also found our first sample that was mostly cathinone (n-ethylpentylone) but with a tiny amount of MDMA in it as well.

Because the colour of the MDMA reaction in the standard Marquis and Mandelin reagent tests is dark and happens fast, the cathinone reaction (yellow Marquis, muddy brown/green Mandelin) would be very hard, if not impossible to see.  Our sample reagent tested as MDMA only.
 
We suspect the MDMA may have been added deliberately in order to baffle reagent tests, as it appears to be present in such a tiny amount that it would not affect the user experience.
 
This is concerning because we know many people, in the absence of public access to spectrometer testing, are using reagents to try and keep themselves safe. Be careful out there, folks.
KnowYourStuffNZ is a not-for-profit social enterprise funded entirely by donations from the community. If you value our work, please donate.