Students warn peers of fake drugs horror

April 26, 2023

Students warn peers of fake drugs horror

Students report adverse effects after mistakenly taking Ketamine (right) that was sold as MDMA (left). Photo: Rebecca Lu

New Zealand students are warning their peers about fake drugs and urging them to use drug-checking services after mistakenly taking the wrong substances.

An Auckland student, who wishes to remain anonymous, suffered severe psychological and physical side effects after taking what they thought was MDMA.

“I realised pretty quickly something was wrong. A group of us had taken it and were on our way out when all of us slowed down and could hardly move. My body felt so slow and heavy that I couldn’t control it.”

The student says the presumed MDMA was instead ketamine, an anaesthetic drug that could cause mental confusion, hallucinations and memory loss when used recreationally.

Taking mistakenly wrong substances was not an isolated experience.

Another student, who wants to remain anonymous, recommends checking the drugs they are taking to reduce potential harm.

“I was feeling anxious, paranoid and seeing things, I didn’t know what was up and it felt like the world around me was moving in slow motion.

“I wish I did [a check] so I could’ve had the choice to not do the drug at all,” she says.

A publicly-funded drug-checking service Know You Stuff says there is a one-third chance that MDMA, also known as ecstasy, is not actually MDMA.

Testing of MDMA reveals that synthetic cathinones are commonly present in MDMA samples.

These are stimulants which have similar effects to MDMA but require a smaller dose to work which “greatly increases the risk of overdose,” according to the NZ Drug Foundation.

Additionally, the NZ Drug Foundation says that only 57 per cent of the drugs tested in the country last year were what people thought they were.

Multiple organisations such as the NZ Drug Foundation, Know Your Stuff, and the Needle Exchange provide legal drug-checking services to increase the safety of those planning to use drugs recreationally.

Drug checking is a free, confidential and legal process in New Zealand and checks are done for the composition of a given substance. However, students say that services need to be more readily available in Auckland.

Another option for those wanting to check the composition of their drugs is purchasing a self-testing kit.

One student says he regularly uses these to test the purity of his substances before use.

“I purchased drug testing kits to check the purity of some MDMA that I bought and whether or not it contained fentanyl.”

He says he has never taken a substance that was not what he thought it was.

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