The New Zealand Drug Foundation and Know Your Stuff NZ have found their drug checking events since January have been greeted with positive feedback and open-minded students.
During the off-season last month, the four clinics tested 59 drug samples. Of these samples, 74.6% contained the expected substance. However, 22% of the samples only partially contained the expected substance, and 3.4% of drugs were something else entirely. From January to March; only 43% of 44 samples were the expected substance, 39% only partially contained the expected substance, 16% were not the expected substance, and 2% were inconclusive. Emily Hughes from the NZ Drug Foundation says “for us, one of the most dangerous drugs that there is, is a drug you don’t know you have”.
Despite receiving positive feedback, there are still a few misconceptions around how the drug checking system works. The clinics can test more than just powders and pills, they are able to test liquids, resins, and plant material, although the latter is slightly more challenging to test. “Even if it’s something you’re not sure whether drug checkers can check”, Emily says, “students can come in and have a chat. This is a service for everyone who wants it. We don’t only check drugs, we’re here to offer support and non-judgemental information”.
The clinics use FTIR spectrometers, which can identify materials inside the substance. The clinic only needs an amount equivalent to a matchstick head to test a substance, and often you will get some back. If you would like to get a pill tested, it’s recommended you bring in the whole pill to gather material from, as different parts of the pill may contain different materials.
Another misconception about drug checking is that it’s an undercover drug bust; however, the NZ Drug Foundation confidently confirms that both their Foundation and the police are pro harm-reduction. It is also illegal for the clinic to collect any personal information from people who come in, making the experience entirely confidential.
A common misconception is that even if your drug is what you expected, the clinic will tell you to destroy it, which is never the case. If it’s something you don’t want to keep, however, the team can destroy it safely for you on the spot. Throughout the January to April clinics, the staff spoke to many members of the public about harm-reduction when taking their substance. Craccum counted 24 harm-reduction strategies listed on the Quarterly Reports, ranging from avoiding mixing a drug with alcohol or other drugs, weighing dosages, organising a trip sitter, and using a nasal rinse after snorting a substance.
The original O-Week drug checking event covered by Craccum is not an isolated event, and the clinics have become available almost every weekend around Auckland. On Thursday 26 May, another clinic will be run out of the Caretakers Cottage in Albert Park, and other events can be found on The Level’s clinic list. Emily from Drug Foundation NZ also said they would welcome working with the University of Auckland more in the future, and will be looking into another big clinic event during Re O-Week.
Everyone is welcome to visit the clinic, even to ask questions without using the service. Students and staff alike are encouraged to visit, especially those who are from out of Auckland as the drugs that are available in Auckland may be different from the ones from their hometown, giving a different experience to their trip. Any additional questions about drug checking in general can be sent to The Level’s website or Instagram.