What is Wanaka’s drug scene? Marjorie Cook talks with KnowYourStuff representative Yvonne Booyen about a new drugs testing service introduced to Wanaka on Sunday.

We do not know what specific substances are most prevalent in the Wanaka community.

We could assume it is the mood›altering stimulant MDMA, otherwise known as Molly or ecstasy.

But ESR senior scientist Andrew Chappell has warned against making assumptions (see our story on wastewater testing).

KnowYourStuff representative Yvonne Booyen also shies away from assumptions about particular towns.

KnowYourStuff is avoluntary drugs testing organisation that helps recreational drug users learn what it is they intend using.

‘‘It isreally difficult to say ‘these are the drugs that a city takes’ . . .There is a lot of other drug use happening in Aotearoa that generally goes under the radar completely,’’ she said.

The three most popular drugs KnowYourStuff volunteers see are MDMA, ketamine, and LSD.

An unregulated drugs market means community preferences for a particular substance cannot be accurately determined.

Ms Booyen says it would be easier to look at what booze is in Wanaka liquor stores over three months and say, ‘‘well, Wanaka drinks vodka — these are the intervention services we need to have for vodka.’’

Ms Booyen stressed it is not a unique moral failing of Wanaka that some residents take drugs. ‘‘Aotearoa is a drug›using country.’’

Nationally, 85% to 90% of samples tested by KnowYourStuff are presumed by the client to be MDMA.

‘‘A reasonable percentage, usually between 10%-25% of those samples, will turn up to not be what people thought they were,’’ Ms Booyen said.

KnowYourStuff formed nationally several years ago when it became apparent chemicals and adulterated substances were being passed off as other recreational drugs.

In many cases, the altered substances led to harmful experiences for users.

Volunteers include degree› qualified chemists, alcohol and drug counsellors, and people with first›hand experience around drugs.

‘‘The biggest part is having the conversation and being able to talk through the results and give that harm reduction advice. A lot of people are not necessarily aware of the interaction recreational drugs might have with specific medication. Your GP won’t tell you when they prescribe antidepressants ‘don’t go taking MDMA’, for example. So it is about having a team that can have those kinds of conversations,’’ Ms Booyen said.

At first, KnowYourStuff operated under the radar, but after drugs checking legislation was passed in 2021, volunteers can openly check substances without fear of prosecution.

The organisation held its first ever Wanaka clinic at the Lake Wanaka Centre on Sunday.

‘‘We are really responding to the demand that we have seen in the Queenstown Lakes district and we are just going to see if people want to use the service,’’ Ms Booyen said.

Know Your Stuff would not reveal how many attended and what substances were tested.

The News did not send reporters out of respect for the new service.

Behind the Facade, The News investigates the threads and facts about what is happening in our community. Throughout this investigation, we will ask the hard questions about these grey areas, seeking to gain clarity about what safety within our community really looks like, and what role and responsibility we each have.

This month The News looks at the drug scene:

Safety the key with recreational drugs

Wastewater testing dirty job, but yields data

Who are drug users within our community?