KYS Alert 301220: Cathinones 1

Our partners at KnowYourStuffNZ had an incredibly busy summer break checking drugs at festivals over New Year’s Eve. Here's what they found...

Festival fact: 75% of festival goers that had drugs checked by KnowYourStuffNZ said that they wouldn’t take what they thought was MDMA if it turned out to be eutylone.

Our partners at KnowYourStuffNZ had an incredibly busy time checking drugs at festivals over the 2020/21 New Year’s Eve. They made some interesting discoveries which we’ve shared below.

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75% of people will refuse drugs if proved to be cathinones

Data from KnowYourStuffNZ’s testing at festivals shows that 75% of people said they would not take their drugs when they found out they had eutylone instead of MDMA. 15% said they would maybe take it, and 10% said they would still take their substances despite finding out it was eutylone and not MDMA.

This is a big change from previous years. Last year just over 50% of people said they would not take their drugs if they proved to be something other than what they were hoping for. This makes clear that people want to avoid eutylone if they have the information to help them make that decision.

Drug checking by KnowYourStuffNZ in the days leading up to New Years’ Eve showed that nearly 40% of “MDMA” was actually eutylone, an unpredictable and often unpleasant stimulant from the cathinone family.

As KnowYourStuffNZ couldn’t do drug checking at all the festivals over New Years’ Eve, they urged people to buy reagent tests from retailers and test their substances themselves. While not as thorough as spectrometer analysis, reagent tests can show when MDMA has been replaced by a cathinone.

The widespread availability of eutylone prompted a flood of messages to the group. Half were from people that had used a reagent test, found they had been sold cathinones instead of MDMA, and discarded their drugs as a result. The other half were from people that either hadn’t tested their drugs and they had turned out to be eutylone, or had tested them, found them to be eutylone, and taken them anyway. These messages described instances of vomiting foam, insomnia, and extreme anxiety.

“The messages we’ve received show how much worse it could have been,“ says KnowYourStuffNZ Managing Director Wendy Allison. “Being able to get the message out early and fast meant that by New Years Eve, people knew about eutylone and were helping each other avoid it. While we weren’t able to have a physical presence at every event, the law change and the publicity around made it much easier to get the message out.”

While no drug use is the safest drug use, there are steps you can take to help stay safer.

If you’re planning on taking any kind of substance (including alcohol), it’s a good idea to avoid overdoing it. Taking too much of anything puts you at risk of serious harm – low doses are safer. Remember, dosing can vary wildly between substances, batches and even people – just because your friend is taking a certain amount, doesn’t mean you’ll react the same way.

Avoid mixing drugs – and that includes mixing with alcohol. The combined effects can be unpredictable and increases the risk of things going wrong.

Make sure you always know what you’re taking, and how to reduce the risk of overdose. The risks increase greatly when you don’t know what you’re taking – you’re unable to predict the effect it’ll have, how long it will last, how much to take, and what the health risks could be.

You can’t be sure what your taking is what you think it is supposed to be, because the person providing it to you may not know themselves. You can get an idea of what your drugs are made from, through reagent tests and drug checking services.

A reagent test indicates whether your substance contains what you were expecting - whether your MDMA actually has MDMA in it. However, it can’t tell you if there are other, possibly more harmful, substances in it. Reagent tests can be legally purchased from most stores that sell vaporisers, or online. A drug checking service can provide more detailed information about the contents of your drugs.

If you can’t feel any effects from what you’ve taken, don’t take more. It may take time for the effects to kick in, and you could end up taking too much and overdosing. 

Tell someone what you’ve taken, so they can get the right help if something goes wrong. Always tell emergency responders what someone has taken – you won’t get in trouble, and it could save a life.

Tell someone if you start feeling unwell and look after your mates – if they look like they’re getting into trouble, get help. Call 111 in an emergency - this includes if someone is unconscious, stops breathing, has a seizure, is extremely agitated for longer than 15 minutes, or has chest pain or breathing difficulties for longer than 5 minutes.

If you or someone you know experience concerning or unexpected effects after taking something, please tell us about it. This will help keep others safe.

If you’re concerned about your own drinking or drug taking, you can reach out to the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, or text 8681. You'll be able to speak with a trained counsellor who can 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 online through the website.

Parts of this article was originally published by KnowYourStuffNZ. View the original here.