Free drug testing available at University of Otago's O-Week in 'bold move' to educate potential users

Students intending to use drugs at this year's University of Otago orientation week now have a "safe environment" to get samples tested beforehand.

The university's Students Association (OUSA) chief executive Debbie Downs said in a statement the association "in no way" condoned drug use, but said, "in the day and age we live in, we are cognizant of the need for harm prevention".

"If we can't stop the intent to use, step two is to educate and inform to reach the same objective," Ms Downs said.

Otago University Students Association, KnowYourStuffNZ and New Zealand Drug Foundation announced today that drug checking will be conducted over four days as part of OUSA Orientation 2019.

The process, open to all, will involve participants providing a small sample of the substance they intend to ingest for testing. Results are given, and harm reduction counselling will provided free of charge.

The initiative was a "proactive move" against drug use, the OUSA statement says.

"This is a bold and pre-emptive move on the part of OUSA," Ms Downs said. "For those still choosing to use the testing site, and process, provides a conducive and safe environment."

Data collected from previous testing showed people would rather discard than use once they have been informed.

"This means drugs are destroyed, with potential hospital cases avoided," Ms Downs said.

"It is an effective and economical way to reduce harm by providing accurate information and education to potential users of illicit drugs" Wendy Allison, of KnowYourStuff, said.

The testing will be a trial for future drug checking at OUSA events, and hopes to set a precedent for other event organisers.

The tests do not guarantee 100 per cent safety, and people are advised the only way to be completely protected is to not take intended substances at all, the OUSA says.

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The Otago University Students’ Association is facilitating the testing in a bid to keep users safe. Source: 1 NEWS