OUSA's drug-testing initiative gets largely positive response

Students have reacted positively to drug checking - chemical analysis of substances people intend to take recreationally - being introduced at the University of Otago for Orientation 2019.

Otago University Students' Association, KnowYourStuffNZ and New Zealand Drug Foundation have joined forces to bring voluntary testing to the University of Otago for four days.

The testing will take place during the day at an Albany St site and substances will be screened with reagents to test for contaminants.

Students spoken to yesterday at the Tent City event backed the move, saying people were going to experiment anyway and testing would make drug use safer.

A University of Otago first-year student who spoke anonymously said she thought it would provide some certainty.

''You don't really know what you're buying,'' she said.

However she queried how many students would take advantage of the testing, saying most people would buy drugs when they were already out late at night.

A second-year university student visiting from the University of Waikato said MDMA - ecstasy - could be found in the clubbing scene, and cannabis use was still prevalent.

There was ''not much P and stuff'', she said.

Others said they agreed with the initiative, and it would hopefully prevent students ending up in hospital.

A university spokeswoman said the testing was not endorsed by the university but it had ''no plans to interfere''.

OUSA chief executive Debbie Downs described the move as ''bold and pre-emptive'' and said it was student-led.

KnowYourStuff exists to reduce drug-related harm at festivals and events.

Mrs Downs said the testing during O-Week was unusual because it was publicly available and targeted at a younger age group.

She had no idea how many students would use the service, and OUSA stressed that checking was not a 100% guarantee of safety.

The service was free for both OUSA members and individuals using it, and included harm reduction counselling.

Drugs would be safely disposed of if those bringing them in wanted to get rid of them, Mrs Downs said.

This summer, KnowYourStuff identified N-Ethylpentylone, which has some of the effects as MDMA but is significantly more potent, as a problem drug.

The initiative comes after Critic Te Arohi student magazine reported last year that OUSA proposals for testing during Re:Ori last semester failed to get the backing of the university.

A police spokesman said police advice would always be not to use drugs.

- Additional reporting by Mike Houlahan

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