Festival-goers are being urged to get their drugs tested before heading to gigs this summer, but a shortage of testing kit means some will miss out.
Despite drug checking being legal for two years, some major festivals — including Bay Dreams and Rhythm & Alps — have missed out on the service because the organisations running them do not have enough kit or capacity.
In August,The News explored drug-checking services as part of its Behind the Facade series.
Two people who took drugs recreationally and frequently identified the importance of drug-checking services, particularly around events where drug use was popular.
‘‘If it’s coming up to a festival, the stuff’s [MDMA] probably worse than normal, because that’s the time everyone’s trying to get it,’’ one said.
‘‘I think since Covid, because supplies have been low, the people selling it are going to want to make it go as far as they can, so it’s definitely a lot sketchier.
‘‘Because of that, I wouldn’t feel as comfortable sourcing here in Wanaka, compared to somewhere like Auckland,’’ the recreational drug user said.
Both drug users said they bought from friends they trusted and ‘‘had personally tried it themselves’’.
Drug-checking organisation Know Your Stuff was one of four licensed providers in Aotearoa.
Deputy manager Dr Jez Weston said there were just six spectrometers — the instruments used to test drugs — which was simply not enough.
‘‘We know from wastewater testing roughly how much drug consumption there is in New Zealand.’’
‘‘The testing that we’re doing is a fairly small chunk of that, so clearly there is demand for much further expansion.’’
Last year, the government put $800,000 towards drug-testing services.
But Dr Weston said more funding was needed to sustain services, with spectrometers costing $50,000 each, plus the money required to run the service at events and pop-up clinics.
‘‘If we can keep people out of hospital, then that’s a really big saving in money, especially with how busy hospitals are right now.
‘‘So I would say that the right amount of funding is probably more than what we’re getting right now.’’
Frontline healthcare workers throughout the country are dealing with the aftermath of dodgy drugs.
A Wellington Hospital doctor said there was a desperate need for drug testing at event venues.
The emergency department was a nightmare after a recent Guns N’ Roses gig, he said.
‘‘They come in comatose and almost need to be intubated, then will suddenly wake up and be wildly unpredictable.
‘‘Some hallucinate vividly and violently; others panic and think they’re about to be killed.
‘‘It absorbs heaps of time and resources just because you have no idea what they’re going to do,’’ the doctor said.
To date Know Your Stuff had tested more than 13,540 samples at 270 events, and found more than 5990 dangerous substances.
A Know Your Stuff drop-in service will be held on December 27 from 12.20pm-7.30pm in the Lake Wanaka Centre (Armstrong Room).
— Additional reporting RNZ