A new synthetic cannabinoid, MDMB-4Br-INACA, has been detected in New Zealand for the first time.

In July 2022, KnowYourStuffNZ came across a sample of white powder in the central North Island of what was reported to be MDMA. However, the person who took it reported effects not consistent with MDMA, like extreme and rapid anxiety.

Further testing revealed that the sample in fact contained MDMB-5Br-INACA, a new synthetic cannabinoid. This is the first time this substance has been detected in New Zealand. You can find out more about this incident from KnowYourStuffNZ.

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What are synthetic cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids have been the most lethal form of illicit substances in recent years in New Zealand, having been implicated in at least 70 deaths. You can find out more about what they are here.

Synthetic cannabinoids are also known as synnies, synthetic cannabis, Spice, Kronic. It is not related to cannabis but it does target the same cannabinoid receptors in the brain. It may have a much stronger effect on those receptors, causing the negative effects like those reported by the person who consumed this substance.

As this substance so new, there is no information about how potent or risky this is. However, it is part of a huge family of synthetics that includes -INACAs, -BINACAs, -FUBINACAs, and -PINACAs. There are hundreds of different types, making them unpredictable and dangerous.

How to stay safer

We recommend not taking MDMB-5Br-INACA at all. It’s concerning that this substance has been misrepresented as MDMA. This reinforces why drug checking is so important – if you are properly informed about the substance you have, you are better able to manage the risks.  Drug checking is free, legal and completely confidential. Clinics are held regularly across the country to help reduce harm - check the schedule here.

If you can’t get to a checking clinic, then a reagent test is your next best bet. In New Zealand, these are legally available from the Hempstore or Cosmic. Worth keeping in mind that while these tests can show you if a substance has been entirely replaced with something, they won’t be able to tell if something has been added to a substance.

For example, it won’t be able to detect if cathinones have been mixed with MDMA, it will only be able to show if a substance has been entirely replaced with cathinones. So, if a substance returns a positive test result for MDMA, that doesn’t mean the substance is unadulterated.

Reagent tests come with clear instructions to help interpret results. Follow the steps carefully to ensure accuracy!

If you think a substance you or a friend took is actually something else:

  • Don't take anymore.
  • Don't take other drugs or drink alcohol.
  • Seek medical advice.

When you are safe, please tell us about your experience through our "Report unusual effects" page. It's completely confidential and will help keep others safe.

You can find out more about drug checking and how it works from The Level.

If you have any concerns about your own drinking or drug taking, get in touch with the Alcohol Drug Helpline. Call 0800 787 797, or text 8681, to speak with a trained counsellor – they’ll be able to provide you with helpful information, insight and support. They’re available 24/7, all calls are free and confidential. You can also chat with the team through the website.