By Anna Murray
A free, legal drug checking service is being set up in three cities around Aotearoa.
The new service is now available at community clinics in Wellington and Christchurch five days a week, and four days a week in Dunedin.
The clinics are provided by the Needle Exchange Services Trust (NEST) and are the only regular scheduled drug checking service that’s available multiple days of the week.
Know Your Stuff NZ and the New Zealand Drug Foundation also offer fortnightly or monthly drug checking clinics around the country.
Previously, these types of clinics were mostly limited to festivals or events, but this is the first year that regular drug checking is available in the wider community.
Jason George, the National Harm Reduction Lead at NEST, says the new regular service gives people in and around Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin much more certainty about when and where they can get their drugs checked.
“This is a really important service that helps people find out what’s actually in their drugs, rather than what they’ve been told is in them,” he says.
“It also gives us an opportunity to have a conversation [with them] about staying safer while using drugs. That could be about the amount they are taking, about mixing different substances, such as MDMA and antidepressants, or about safe injecting practices.”
NEST says its service is completely confidential, with no names or other identifying information taken.
The clinics use a spectrometer and reagents to test for the presence of most commonly consumed substances - methamphetamine, MDMA, opiates (including heroin), fentanyl and others.
The results are usually available within a few minutes.
One in three drugs in NZ aren’t what you think they are
Typically, drug checking shows up to a third of drugs are either completely different to what a person thought they had bought or had other substances added to them.
A NZ Drug Foundation report earlier this year found 21% of the drugs it tested in 2022 were a mix of what people thought they were taking plus other substances, with another 12% being another substance entirely.
The report showed a wide variety of substances are passed off as drugs in Aotearoa, including oil, creatine, caffeine, yeast and Viagra.
Jason says some of the filler substances found in drugs may not be seen as harmful, but they can be dangerous if injected or snorted.
He says many people ask them to destroy their drugs if they’re not what they thought they were.
“[But] others say they will go ahead and take them anyway, but with the knowledge of what they contain,” he says.
“It’s not our job to push people into decisions, but we want them to have the facts so they can make an informed choice.”
The locations and times of all drug checking clinics offered by licensed providers in Aotearoa are on the Know Your Stuff NZ website, the New Zealand Drug Foundation's The Level website, and the NEST website.
Details of NEST’s regular drug checking clinics:
- Wellington - 233a Willis St. Open 12-7pm Tuesday to Friday and 1.15pm-4.45pm Saturday
- Christchurch - 10 Washington Way. Open 1-7pm Tuesday to Saturday
- Dunedin - 278D King Edward Street. Open 12-6pm Wednesday to Saturday
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