An official report of UoA’s first drug checking event states it was a success, and resulted in tangible harm reduction outcomes.
During re-orientation week, Know Your Stuff (KYS) ran a pilot for a free, confidential, drug checking service in Albert Park, supported by UoA’s Student Wellbeing Team and the New Zealand Drug Foundation (NZDF). This event was possible due to legislation passed last year, allowing drug and substance checking services to operate legally in New Zealand, with the aim of minimising drug and substance harm.
The clinic ran for three hours on July 19 at full capacity, with a total of 35 drug samples tested at the event. The most common drugs seen were MDMA, ketamine, and amphetamines. According to testers, the majority of people who visited the clinic were inexperienced drug users.
Drug checking is a proven effective drug harm reduction strategy. According to KYS, drug checking reduces the risk of death from drug use by ensuring people know what substance they have, and the risks associated with it so they can make an informed choice. An official report of the event revealed only 57% of the samples tested were consistent with what the client had presumed them to be.
After further ESR testing of one sample presumed to be a fake Xanex, it was determined that the drug checking service most likely saved a person’s life. “If the full pill had been ingested, it would have resulted in death within a couple of hours for the consumer.”
KYS testers also reported that a large number of the samples presumed to be MDMA, were, in fact, the harmful synthetic cathinone, Eutylone. On their website, KYS states Eutylone is “potentially even the crappiest drug since the N-ethylpentylone boom of 2017” and that you cannot tell the difference between MDMA and eutylone based on sight or smell alone. “Eutylone has been linked to a number of hospitalisations, and a much larger number of people just having a terrible, scary time, with some feeling unwell up to 10 days later.”
Testers reported that when they found that a substance was not as presumed, 0% of people said they would go on to take the drug, and they disposed of their samples on site.“It is clear that knowing what is in a sample affects people’s decisions whether or not to take it.” Following a conversation with the AOD practitioners, 81% of people who had the drug they presumed said they would likely still take it.
According to those involved, due to the success of this event, many are interested in future drug checking services on campus. “It was great to see tangible harm reduction was achieved through this event and that it was well received by staff, students, and members of the public alike,” commented UoA Health Promotion Adviser Carley Fletcher. “We hope it will be extended beyond this pilot and offered on a more regular basis to the University community.” KYS and the NZDF have also expressed their support for UoA running more drug checking services, recommending that UoA becomes gazetted and purchases their own spectrometer.