Better yet, the tests (which were conducted by a combination of OUSA, KnowYourStuffNZ and the New Zealand Drug Association) were completely free. Students were encouraged to provide a small sample of any drugs they planned to consume, and in return they were given an indication of its ingredients. Drug testers also gave harm reduction advice during the process. NZ Drug Foundation Policy and Information Officer Samuel Andrews, who helped to carry out the tests, reported around 60 tests were carried out throughout the week. Andrews said MDMA made up the bulk of the drugs tested, and that approximately one in five pills contained unexpected substances. He also reported “a handful” of students had brought ketamine to be tested.
OUSA’s CEO Debbie Downs labelled the testing a “bold and pre-emptive” attempt to educate students on the dangers of drug use. “OUSA in no way condones drug use of any kind,” she told the Otago Daily Times, “but in the day and age we live in, we are cognizant of the need for harm prevention. If we can’t stop the intent to use, step two is to educate and inform to reach the same objective”. Downs said that previous trials had proven students were more likely to discard their drugs after they had been informed of its contents. Andrews agreed with this line of reasoning, saying he believed the harm reduction advice given before and after the testings had “definitely” saved a few students from a trip to the hospital.
Earlier this year it was revealed that a batch of illicit substances seized by police at the Rhythm and Vines festival contained traces of harmful pesticides. Following the find, Police Minister Stuart Nash said New Zealand should consider making it mandatory for festivals to provide drug testing facilities. Nash pointed to Australia as an example of this policy in action: drug checking is common there, and Nash said statistics showed drug related hospitalisations had fallen by as much as 95% in the festivals where testing was implemented. Nash said he would like to be able to enforce his drug testing policy by 2020, but noted he would be conducting a thorough review of the testing methods and results before he did.