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The results of our pilot drug checking service are in, and they show it’s a worthwhile service that people will utilise to make safer choices about their drug use.

There’s no such thing as safe drug use, we all know that. But that doesn’t stop some people – especially young people – from taking drugs regardless, without knowing what’s in them or the harm they could cause.

KnowyourStuffNZ volunteers have been carrying out festival drug checking for many years. But drug taking is not limited to summer or festivals, so last July they joined with the Drug Foundation to begin operating regular drug checking services at an inner city location – the Drug Foundation’s Wellington office.

The results of this initial phase are out, and we’ve collected enough information to say it’s worthwhile to continue and hopefully expand the service.

All drug use is potentially harmful. But the real harm comes from using an unknown substance, using too much, or using in a harmful way.

Drug checking aims to clear the air. To get some information into the equation, and hopefully save lives. Attendance started out low, but numbers have risen steadily – and that’s important.

It means people want to talk about drugs, and they want to be safer. Drug checking is a unique opportunity to share tailored harm reduction advice so clients can make better, more informed, safer decisions about their drug use.

Here are the results, in a nutshell:

Since last July we’ve tested 112 samples, and we’re pleased to say that most of them (77 percent) were exactly what the client expected. But that means 16.5 were not. Three percent of those unknown substances turned out to be synthetic cathinones – two of them the highly dangerous n-ethylpentylone which left multiple people hospitalisesd in 2018.

Most clients thought they had MDMA (ecstasy). As always, upon discovering it wasn’t what they thought, most said they were no longer planning to take the substance.

Participants are reminded that the safest option is to not take a substance at all.

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