Drug testing conducted on Dunedin’s Hyde Street uncovered a dangerous chemical in a students’ pill.
The chemical was detected after a student brought it into a specialist drug-testing tent provided for by Otago University Student Union (OUSA), KnowYourStuffNZ and the New Zealand Drug Foundation. Testing quickly revealed the drug contained dangerous amounts of an unknown cathinone (more commonly known as bath salts). Testers guessed the cathinone in the pill was likely to have made its way into all pills made with the same batch, and so put out a warning on Facebook informing students that there was a batch of MDMA on the loose which had an increased chance of causing harm.
OUSA claims the notification is likely to have saved other students from harm, and has used it to vindicate their novel decision (made early this year) to provide testing for students. OUSA President James Heath says the event is “a perfect example” of why the union feels it should provide drug testing services for students. Samuel Andrews, a spokesperson for the New Zealand Drug Foundation who volunteered in the testing tent, agrees. “We think every university at O-Week should have a drug-checking service, as well as festivals and big night-life events, that’s what we want to be seeing,” he told Stuff, “Some people will choose to use drugs and it is really important we can provide them with information and advice so they can be safer, and we don’t have people having bad nights, or a potentially fatal night”.
The testing marks the second time OUSA has provided students with the ability to test their drugs. The first time occurred in O-Week this year, when students were encouraged to test their pills before taking them. 61 students took OUSA up on their offer – of those, OUSA claim a significant number decided not to take the drug after having it tested for dangerous substances.
OUSA say they will be trying to bring drug testing to more events in future.