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More than two-thirds of the popular party drug MDMA in Dunedin is a potentially dangerous substitute, drug testing in the city found last week.
Know Your Stuff NZ is testing in the city as part of O Week as students celebrate at the start of the academic year.
Know Your Stuff NZ Dunedin regional and South Island manager Finn Boyle said testing in Dunedin on Friday found about 69% of the samples presumed to be MDMA were in fact a substitute, typically a drug from the cathinone family.
About 45% of the supposed MDMA tested was the new, and potentially dangerous, drug eutylone, Mr Boyle said.
A decade ago, party-goers were taking pressed pills assumed to contain a cocktail of drugs, including the psychoactive drug MDMA, often called ecstasy or molly, but the market had since shifted.
Users now were often taking a crystalline substance they hoped was pure MDMA, but which testing showed to be otherwise, he said.
The drugs had typically been switched out, or substituted.
"This summer has been pretty much the worst we’ve ever seen as an organisation. I’m pretty sure this is the least consistent we’ve ever seen our testing. It’s really sad to see," Mr Boyle said.
While the organisation’s website says insomnia, anxiety, headaches, an upset stomach, agitation, paranoia, vomiting, convulsions, and possibly death, were the unwanted side effects of eutylone, Mr Boyle said he was unaware of any deaths related to the drug as yet.
The desired euphoria for the drug takers typically wore off very quickly.
And the anecdotal evidence pointed to "not necessarily a medical emergency but an exceptionally unenjoyable experience", he said.
Know Your Stuff NZ would return for testing tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday.
Drug testing typically took around five minutes. Last week Know Your Stuff NZ tested around 40 samples, Mr Boyle said.
Otago University Students' Association chief executive Debbie Downs said the association was advertising the availability of substance testing in general around Flo and O Weeks and were posting testing results on social media.
The OUSA was the first to facilitate testing at O Week in 2019, and it continued to urge students to have drugs tested.
The OUSA did not condone drug use, she said.