Deadly drug reaches NZ, spurs calls for legal recreational testing

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1 NEWS

The threat of the deadly drug Fentanyl is adding urgency to calls to let recreational users test their drugs legally.

Health experts warn that people will die if they don't know exactly what they're taking.
Source: 1 NEWS

With the summer music festival season looming, health experts warn people will die if they don't know exactly what they're taking.

Fentanyl is an opioid pain medication that is finding its way into recreational drugs.

In Melbourne alone, it has been linked to at least 10 deaths, often laced in heroin, and that has one New Zealand drug user scared.

"Too many people are dying because their drugs are not as advertised. It's a risk you take when buying illegal substances, but death should never be a consequence," the user told 1 NEWS, her comments voiced by an actor.

Wendy Allison of the community organisation Know Your Stuff offers to test people's recreational drugs so they know exactly what they're taking and are kept safe.

"Fentanyl is an emerging issue. I have reason to believe it's in New Zealand already," Ms Allison said.

She plans to be at music festivals over the summer but plans to keep a low profile.

"It's illegal to knowingly permit a venue to be used for offences against the Misuse of Drugs Act and it is illegal to be in possession of illicit substances. But we do neither of those things," she said.

There is a danger with such approaches that they encourage or are seen to encourage drug use."
Health Minister David Clark

Last summer, 70 per cent of the drugs Ms Allison tested were what they said they were. Ten per cent contained at least one other substance, while 20 per cent of the drugs were something completely different.

New Zealand Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell says it's time the law was clarified so Ms Allison and her team can do the testing without facing charges.

"We want to protect people from getting hurt or from dying. So the services sort of stand by themselves. In my mind this is a no brainer. We just need that legal protection," he said. 

The new Health Minister, David Clark, wants more information.

"There is a danger with such approaches that they encourage or are seen to encourage drug use. And the law as it stands must be respected," he said. 

New Zealand Police have not seized any Fentanyl, but Customs has seen a small increase at the border and that's a worrying sign for drug users and politicians alike. 

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