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The Drug Foundation's spectrometer checks the content of an illicit substance

It produces some of the same effects as MDMA, but users have described the experience as “seedy”, “cracky”, and much less pleasant.

KnowYourStuffNZ has been back on the ground at music festivals this summer, supported by NZ Drug Foundation, and the drug that’s cropping up a lot is a new cathinone stimulant called n-ethylpentylone.

Dr Jez Weston of KnowYourStuffNZ says testing revealed around a quarter of the drugs people believed to be MDMA (Ecstasy) were something else completely. The chemical copycat usually comes in a white powder that looks pretty much like MDMA – but the effects are quite different.

Physical effects can include raised pulse and blood pressure, high body temperature, convulsions, acidosis, and rapid muscle breakdown. Psychological effects include agitation, paranoia, compulsion to re-dose, difficulty sleeping for up to 36 hours, and temporary psychosis.

Dr Weston says because the drug is so new, they don’t know much about the health risks of long-term use. However, they do know that it’s significantly more potent than MDMA which means it’s easy to take too much.

KnowYourStuffNZ has also recently detected its first confirmed sample of Alpha-PVP (flakka), another cathinone substitute that was implicated in a 2016 death in Waikanae. Dr Weston is asking people to stay safe and be mindful of what they are taking.

"Cathinones are far and away the biggest substitution concern we're currently encountering."

There have already been deaths related to both these drug overseas, and KnowYourStuffNZ recommends that you test any substance before you take it, to make sure it’s what you think it is.

Radiolive interviews Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell and Wendy Allison from KnowYourStuffNZ


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