More people than ever are choosing not to take dangerous drugs when tests show the substances were not what users thought they were.
Drug harm reduction service KnowYourStuffNZ says that 62 per cent of people who used their free substance testing stations at festivals over the 2018/2019 summer changed their minds about taking drugs when they turned out not be what was expected.
Wendy Allison, Managing Director of KnowYourStuffNZ told 1 NEWS that it appears that the harm reduction message is catching on.
"The thing we’re most happy about is the change in the way that people appear to be approaching drug use. More and more people are choosing not to take substances that have turned out not to be what they’re supposed to be."
"People have actually told us that they’re approaching drug use with more caution even outside of events," she said.
MDMA was again the most popular substance, with both more samples of the drug being presented for testing and a higher percentage of the samples confirmed as containing MDMA. This summer, 90 per cent of samples presumed to be MDMA actually contained MDMA.
"If it turns out to be something that is still desirable they may then go on and choose to take it anyway," says Ms Allison, "but knowing that it’s that other thing and being able to have harm reduction information about that new substance will still help them to avoid harm."
Over 30 brightly coloured high-dose pills with a variety of shapes and logos were also found, some containing up to 300mg of MDMA.
"This is a continuation and expansion of what we saw last year," says Ms Allison. "300mg is around three times the 'normal' dose of MDMA - if someone took that without knowing, they could be at serious risk of harm."
KnowYourStuffNZ released a warning about high-dose MDMA pills in March.
Testing took place at 13 festivals, with samples brought in voluntarily by users and tested for content using chemical reagents and FTIR spectroscopy. 805 samples were tested, almost doubling the number of tests from last year. Of those samples, 87 per cent tested as containing the substances that were expected.
Ms Allison says they need proper funding to keep up with the increased demand for their services as they had to turn down some events this year.
"We’re a small community organisation run entirety by volunteers and entirely on donations. That’s not a sustainable way to fund it into the future."