COVID-19 is still a thing

Aotearoa is in the incredibly lucky place of actually having a festival season. Thanks to us being a team of 5 million and flattening the curve, we can actually go and have fun this summer.

COVID’s still ruining the days of folks all over the world. England’s going into a third lockdown with no festivals since March last year, the US reported 567,195 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 just before Christmas, and most of Australia’s still at Level 3.

While we have a licence to frolic, the risk from COVID-19 is still real and we still run the risk of having another outbreak. It’s still a good idea to keep doing the things that got us to Level 1 so we can keep frolicking.

Hand sanitizer is your friend

You can’t wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds each time at a festival. Sorry Aunty Jacinda and Dr. Bloomfield.

Anyone who’s used a public bathroom knows it’s a gamble as to whether the soap dispenser has been filled recently. If you’re at a bush doof or self-reliance event, there’ll only be portaloos and what you can carry into the space with you.

Image, Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs
It puts the hand sanitiser on its skin or else it gets the COVID again

Those travel-sized bottles of hand sanitiser are deep fried gold at festivals. They fit in your pocket and will last ages. They’re not as good as washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water, but they’ll reduce the risk of COVID-19. They will also reduce the chances of you catching things like e. coli and salmonella and stomach bugs like norovirus, coz no-one wants to spend their festival with vomiting and diarrhea.

The thing to keep in mind with this stuff is that it’ll dry your hands out if you use it often enough. This is bad because it creates little breaks in the skin where microbes can get into your bloodstream. It’s a good idea to use some hand lotion once a day to keep this from happening.

Sharing your snorting utensil is not caring

Basically you’re putting someone else’s viral droplets up your nose. That’s how you get COVID.

Besides being kinda gross (nobody likes a snotty straw), the membranes on the inside of the nostril are very thin. They absorb things very easily, and are super easy to break. If the person you’re sharing a straw, spoon, or key with is sick, whatever virus they have will be transferred directly to an easy entry point to your body.

Also, if you’re going to snort, try and avoid using a rolled up bank note. Money is a perfect disease vector because it passes through so many people’s hands. Illnesses like the common cold, influenza, salmonella, e coli and staph can all be caught from bank notes along with COVID.

If you can, use a paper straw that you can cut into pieces. That way everyone has their own utensil and you don’t get someone else’s potentially plague-ridden snot.

Cuddle puddle with your bubble

Social distancing at festivals is super hard. Dance floors are generally packed, there’s lines for everything, and the chill spaces are also full of humans. If you add something that makes you hypersocial like MDMA, the idea of social distancing kinda goes out the window as you turn into a cuddly starry-eyed pool of goo who is best friends with the whole world.

Bloody COVID ruins everything though. Cuddle puddles are great places for viruses to travel between people quickly. Have your friends as your festival bubble, and keep your snugs for them and them alone. It reduces the risk of you contracting COVID and passing it on to your friends.

We’re not completely COVID-free yet

Our COVID-19 curve might be flat, but it’s not over. Our last community-spread case was back in November, but new cases are still being reported at the border. We still need to be careful and we still need to take care of each other. We’re still a team of 5 million, after all.

Eat, hydrate, rest, rave, repeat

You’re on holiday, so time has ceased to have any kind of meaning. You eat if you’re hungry. Sleep is for the weak! You even have ice cream for breakfast and spend all day every day in your togs because, in summer, clothes are for suckers!

Except if you keep going like that you’re going to burn out after a week because you feel super gross and miss out on all the fun. We’ve got some pointers on how you can look after yourself so you can last the entire season.

Mind your meatsuit

Your body needs the same kind of maintenance that you give it when you’re not on holiday, and it’s easy to get distracted and forget that.

Check your drugs

With the amount of eutylone that’s flying around this summer it’s a 50/50 chance of you getting something shit instead of getting real MDMA. The amount of hospitalisations that we’ve had so far shows that this isn’t something you want to play Russian roulette with.


Believe it or not, food can actually be a difficult thing to keep track of. If you’ve been getting intoxicated, or if you’re somewhere that’s super hot, you can quickly lose your appetite. Eating full-sized meals under these circumstances will make you feel a bit yuck, so you won’t want to do it.

Skipping food will make you feel tired, grumpy, and make you very easy to upset. The hanger will be real. You may also feel dizzy and have a headache.

Nibbling on fruit, muesli bars, jerky, or salads throughout the day is a good way to get nutrients into your system without overloading your belly and making you feel off.

You may be way too high to eat. Plan for this, make sure your body is ready for a session and plan for a gentle recovery too.

Waiting until dusk or until it gets dark before having dinner is also a good idea. When the heat of the day has gone it’s easier to stomach food.


Go get a drink of water. Yes now.

It’s summer, so it’s hot. You’ll sweat more. If you’re dancing, running about, or engaging in physical activity, you’ll be breathing heavily. This makes you lose moisture as well. It’s super easy to get dehydrated.

Not having enough fluids will give you a headache and make you super tired. People need to drink between 3 and 4 litres of water per day. Having a sipper bottle that you carry with you through the day is a good idea.

Hydration and MDMA

When you’re on MDMA there is a risk of hyponatremia — where you don’t pee enough for your body to get rid of all of the water that you’re drinking.

When you’re on MDMA your body temperature rises, you’re often dancing, and you’re often in a hot environment. You will most definitely feel thirsty and want to drink lots of water. However MDMA also restricts the hormone that tells your body it needs to pee, so you don’t. It’s important to keep an eye on how much water you’re drinking.

Your body can only really handle about 600ml of water per hour. Anything more than that in a situation where you can’t pee and the water will stay in your body. If the water can’t leave your body it dilutes the sodium in your blood and causes your cells to swell up. In extreme cases it can swell up your brain and kill you.

If you have been drinking a lot of water and suddenly feel confused, lose control of your body, or vomit unexpectedly, seek medical attention.

If you find you’re drinking too much water while on MDMA, hold an ice cube in your mouth. This will trick your body into thinking it’s being quenched while not running the risk of overloading your bladder. Ice blocks are also a great way to quench your MDMA-induced thirst because not only are they cold and wet, but they have all different kinds of flavours.


The festival environment can be pretty damn overwhelming, even if you’re a seasoned partygoer. Having a quiet space where you can chill out and decompress is very important. Lack of sleep will make you grumpy and give you a headache. It can lead to hallucinations if it goes on long enough, and not in a fun way.

If you’re finding that it’s too hot to get a full night’s sleep, see if you can find a shady place outdoors to have an afternoon nap in.


Summer is one of those times where, when the sun’s out, it’s bloody hot. And when the sun goes away for the night, it gets bloody cold bloody quickly, depending on where you are.

We wrote about how to avoid sunstroke and stay cool a couple of years back, but something else you should keep in the back of your mind is staying warm at night. Especially if it rains. People can still get hypothermia in summer, so having a warm, dry place to sleep is important.

At the risk of sounding like your nanna, make sure you’ve got a warm jersey and a raincoat that you can quickly throw on over your festival gear. Can’t have you catching your death!

Slip slop slap and wrap

The sun in Aotearoa New Zealand is ferocious. When summer’s at its peak our burn times can be as little as under ten minutes, and our UV index is considered ‘extreme’. We have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

Wearing sunblock, a t-shirt that covers your shoulders, sunglasses, and a hat while you’re out in the sun reduces your chance of skin cancer. If it’s really hot, staying in the shade between 10am and 5pm will also reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Love your mind

Festivals can be super confronting environments. There’s people and noise everywhere, your sleep cycle is interrupted, and you’re not at home in your familiar surroundings. While on one level this is all very exciting and fun, on another level it can be super stressful.

Take some time to check in with how you’re feeling. Are you overwhelmed with all of the people and the shiny things to see and do? Underwhelmed with the person in the tent next to yours with the shitty music that they won’t turn off? When was the last time you unwound? Taking stock of where your levels of whelm are at and keeping them in equilibrium as best you can is about the best thing you can do for yourself in life generally, as well as in festival season.

Know Your Cathinones

We know that eutylone is being mis-sold as MDMA all over the country and ruining everyone’s summer this festival season. That’s not the only cathinone you need to watch out for though.

But wait, there’s more cathinones! And they’re pretty much all shit!

Aotearoa New Zealand has experienced at least 5 different types of cathinone in the last decade. Because they’re comparatively easy to make, every time we get a handle on one, another crops up to shit on everyone’s day.

Cathinones found in NZ have included:

  • Alpha PVP (flakka)
  • Eutylone
  • N-ethylpentylone
  • Mephedrone (4-MMC)
  • Pentylone
  • Methylone (M1 or bk-MDMA – despite the name, is *not* MDMA)

Why are cathinones so shit?

Cathinones are often more potent, mg for mg, than MDMA. A standard dose of cathinone can be anywhere between 10mg and 60mg. A standard dose of MDMA is anywhere between 75mg and 125mg. A dangerous dose of cathinone is between >15mg (flakka) and >100mg (eutylone). A dangerous dose of MDMA is >175mg.

So let’s say that someone’s been sold some “MDMA” that’s actually eutylone. They have 100mg of their “MDMA”, which is actually 1.5 doses of eutylone. The euphoria wears off quickly and they think that their “MDMA” is really weak, so they have another 100mg. They’ve now had 200mg of eutylone, which is well more than a standard dose and is getting into seriously risky territory.

Symptoms for dangerous doses for cathinones include hallucinations, tingling extremities, seizures, psychosis, vomiting and diarrhea, insomnia, severe, prolonged anxiety including panic attacks, and in some cases, death.

Sometimes drug manufacturers will mask cathinones with a small amount of MDMA in order to throw off reagent tests. Those are the drug manufacturers that get people killed. This is why getting your gear checked with our FTIR spectrometer is so important. Using reagent testing alone can’t detect these mixes and will give the same result as MDMA. We can tell you which cathinone you’re dealing with, how dangerous it is, and how you can take care of yourself if you have some by accident.

NZ’s top 3 cathinones

This is a run-down of the things you will potentially run into this summer. Things all cathinone experiences have in common are:

  • Mild euphoria that doesn’t last very long
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Racing heart

Things extreme cathinone experiences have in common are:

  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Hospitalisations

People have also overdosed and died because of these substances.

Basically, almost nobody has a good time with cathinones, especially when they take them inadvertently, thinking they are MDMA. The only thing that really varies is how much it takes to hurt you if you don’t know you’ve taken it.


We started seeing eutylone in December 2018 and it’s been picking up since then. It’s been strongly prevalent this summer and a large number of people have had extremely negative experiences with it. Almost half of the samples that we’ve seen that are meant to be MDMA have been eutylone, or a eutylone/MDMA mix. People taking this have experienced insomnia, gastric distress, hallucinations, and severe anxiety.

It’s been found in pill, powder, and crystal form, so unfortunately there’s no way of telling whether what you have is eutylone just by looking.


Judged Summer’s Crap Drug of 2017, this cathinone has been linked to deaths overseas and hospitalisations here. We found this in powder, crystal, and pill form. The active dose of n-ethylpentylone is >35mg, so even half a standard dose of “MDMA” will be more than you bargained for. A normal MDMA sized dose is likely to be harmful and unpleasant. DO NOT MESS AROUND WITH THIS SHIT.


This is another cathinone that’s been linked to deaths overseas and hospitalisations here. This is one of the older cathinones (2005-2010) that has reappeared in NZ. Mephedrone can feel similar to MDMA but has a very high redose compulsion so you risk taking far too much. It also has a dependency risk.

We started seeing this in pill form in 2019, and it’s popped up every now and again since. Dosing for mephedrone is similar to that for MDMA, which means anything over 175mg is getting pretty risky. Make sure you weigh your gear properly, and be aware that if you snort it you should halve your dose.

Cathinones sound like shit, how do I avoid them?

Come and see us in the KYSNZ tent, obvs. We’ll run your gear through the FTIR spec and tell you if you’ve got mdma in your mdma, and whether or not you’ve got anything else in your mdma.

If you can’t come and see us, you can try a reagent test from the Hemp store or Cosmic, but this will only tell you if you’ve got solid cathinone. It can’t see cathinones that are present if the manufacturer has added MDMA to your cathinones.

If you can’t test your substances we strongly advise you not to take them.

Honestly, we’d rather you had a quiet one on the couch rather than a horrible one in A&E.

Reagent testing at home to check for cathinones

We’re absolutely flat out this summer, and unfortunately we can’t be everywhere. People that want to check their gear but can’t get to one of our testing sites have been using at home reagent tests to check for cathinones with some success. The main tests that people are using this summer are the EZ tests available from Cosmic.

While this can’t tell you if you’ve had your MDMA spiked, it will tell you if you’ve been sold a cathinone instead of MDMA. We have been hearing from lots of people this summer who bought from a trusted source but were smart enough to get it tested, either by us or with one of these at home tests. Then it turned out to be a cathinone and they binned it, because the slight up really isn’t worth the hellish down.

Warning! Reagent tests can only show the presence of one chemical.

They will not show cathinones if the drug manufacturer has masked them with a trace amount of MDMA. Even if your reagent test is positive for MDMA you should treat it with caution as it may be a mix of MDMA and cathinones.

That being said, reagent tests are better than nothing, and will show you if what you have is just cathinones instead of MDMA.
Most of what we have tested this summer has been just cathinones, not mixtures, so we are confident recommending that you should use these tests if you can’t get to KnowYourStuffNZ to use our FTIR spectrometer.

How the reagent tests work

Each test comes with an ampoule of testing reagent. Simply open the ampoule, drop in a small sample about the size of a couple of grains of salt or the head of a pin, and read the colour chart. Be careful with the reagent. they are corrosive and can burn your skin if the liquid touches you.

EZ Ecstasy test

The ecstasy test will show you if you have MDMA in your or if it contains only cathinones, Unfortunately it can’t tell you if there’s anything else mixed in your MDMA.

Image, an EZ Ecstasy test showing a positive result for MDMA. The reagent has gone a strong purple-black.
This is what a positive ecstasy test looks like. See how dark it is? What you want is a reaction that gives a strong purple black. What you do not want is a yellow reaction. It may go darker orange over time, but if it goes yellow first, it’s a cathinone. Remember, if it’s yellow, it ain’t mellow.
Image of a EZ Ecstasy test with cathinone. The reagent has gone bright yellow.
The test says methylone/butylone, but the reaction will be the same for eutylone, and most other cathinones. Note that reagent tests will give the same result for a 90% cathinone/10% mdma mix as it would for pure mdma so it is far from a guarantee because were also seeing a lot of those mixes.

The test says methylone/butylone, but the reaction will be the same for eutylone, and most other cathinones. Note that reagent tests will give the same result for a 90% cathinone/10% mdma mix as it would for pure mdma so it is far from a guarantee because were also seeing a lot of those mixes.

EZ MDMA purity test

The MDMA purity test shows how much MDMA is in a substance. It’s good for checking if you have a high dose pill or if your MDMA is actually a cathinone. It won’t show you if there’s anything else hiding in your substance.If your mdma is actually just cathinones. It won’t show you if there’s anything else hiding in your substance, or if it contains BOTH MDMA and cathinones

Image of the EZ MDMA Purity test. The reagent has gone pale brown at the top, showing a medium amount of MDMA in the substance tested
If you have MDMA the top layer of the reagent will change colour depending on how much MDMA there is. If there’s lots, it’ll go super dark. This picture shows a medium-strength positive reaction. If any other layers appear, any unexpected colour changes, or things don’t quite dissolve right, there is likely other unknown substances in your sample.
Image of a cathinone sample in the EZ MDMA Purity test. The reagent hasn't changed colour at all.
This is a cathinone in an MDMA purity test. As you can see, there’s been no reaction at all. If it’s clear, you can clearly bin it.

If you’re not sure about your reagent result, do not take your substance.

We’d rather you didn’t play Russian roulette with your drugs this summer. The chances of you having eutylone or a eutylone/MDMA mix is way too high, and we’re pretty sure you don’t want to spend the next few days vomiting and freaking out. Better to be safe than sorry.

Help, I’ve had eutylone! What do?

Eutylone is definitely this summer’s crap drug. Potentially even the crappiest drug since the N-ethylpentylone boom of 2017.

If you’ve accidentally had eutylone, it’s highly likely that you’ll have a shit time. It’s important to remember that it’s only for a finite time, and you’ll be ok once you ride it out. But you have to ride it out first.

What does eutylone feel like?

A lot of people have described it as feeling like they’ve been poisoned. For most people it’s basically a shit time for a long time.
If you’ve had eutylone, what you’ll probably feel is mild euphoria that is short lived, followed by ongoing stimulation and mild to intense anxiety. It’s likely you won’t be able to sleep that night, and possibly for anywhere up to 3-4 days. You may have a high heart rate with lingering or intensifying anxiety. You might also experience vomiting and/or have diarrhea, tremors, or muscle spasms.

One thing to keep in mind is that the eutylone experience is unpredictable – we’ve heard reports of people having a mild eutylone trip, then trying the same dose again another day and getting the anxiety/insomnia symptoms described above

In extreme cases or if it’s interacted badly with any medication you’re on, you get tingling in your feet and hands, you could have seizures, hallucinate, or have psychotic episodes. Your heart rate might also not slow down, or your symptoms might suddenly get worse. If this happens, you definitely need to see the medics or go to A&E as soon as you can.

Time is on your side

The key thing to remember with eutylone is that the symptoms won’t last forever. The anxiety and insomnia will wear off eventually, you just have to wait. It’s important to take good care of yourself until they do.

You might be tempted to smoke some weed to help bring you down, but we strongly advise against that. Y’know that thing about weed sometimes making folks paranoid? That goes from being a possibility to a definitely, and will make the anxiety you’re experiencing worse. (We did say it was a crap drug…)

The chill space is your friend

If you can get someone to take you home or somewhere safe and familiar for your recovery, do it. Build yourself a little nest on the couch and settle in with some light and fluffy tv. This will distract your brain and keep it from chewing on you while you recover.

If you’re at a festival, find somewhere that’s got a chill, low-key vibe. A lot of festivals have quiet spaces run by PsyCare or DeepSpace that are specifically for people that are having a difficult experience. Those spaces will have comfy couches and sensory toys to help ground you, and volunteers that will give you one-on-one help if you’re having a really difficult time.

Honestly, resting in a quiet place is the best thing that you can do for your brain. It limits the chance of having any unexpected confrontational or overwhelming experiences brought on by randoms.

Image, baby Yoda sleeping in his carrier
Rest, snacks, and non-caffeinated non-alcoholic beverages will have you feeling better in no time. Just be gentle with yourself in the mean time.

Drink some water and have snacks

Eating and drinking are about the last thing you’re going to want to do, but they’ll help you recover quicker.

Having little nibbles of things like nuts, chocolate, fruit, jerky, or muesli bars often over the course of the day will get nutrients into you without overloading your belly and making you want to vomit. You’ll be able to keep your food down better if you have little bits a lot of times. Soup is also a great non-challenging food if you can get it.

Staying hydrated is important, especially if you’ve been vomiting or have diarrhea. Water, fruit juice, or drinks with electrolytes in them are great for recovery. Avoid alcohol. Avoid energy drinks and caffeinated drinks like the plague. They’ll jack your heart rate up, add to your anxiety, and keep you awake for even longer. The longer you stay awake, the higher the likelihood is of having a psychotic episode. Stick to the OJ and you’ll come out ok.

How to help if you’re the sober person for your friends

It’s scary watching your friends go through a eutylone experience, even if it’s a mild one. Things you can do are:

  • Bring your friends to the medics if you’re at a festival, or to A&E if you’re in town. They’re trained to deal with situations like eutylone dosing and won’t narc on you or judge you.
  • Help them make a space where they can ride the experience out. Pillows, blankets, low light, and warmth are all good things to have in their recovery nest.
  • Bring them snacks and drinks when they need them
  • If your friends are getting anxious, breathing exercises can help to calm them down.
    Healthline have some good breathing techniques on their website
  • Grounding exercises can also help if your friend is having a difficult time. Grounding is a way to get the brain’s attention to focus on something instead of getting caught up in the overwhelming anxiety spiral. Healthline have some great techniques that you can try on their site:

Whether it is you or your friend that is struggling, reassurance can really make all the difference in managing the experience- particularly when it comes to the psychological symptoms. Remind yourself, or them, frequently that the symptoms are coming from the drug, not them. It will pass, they will be OK.

Don’t wait to seek help if you need it.