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Crucial drug testing services at summer festivals underfunded

November 7, 2022

Interview by Spike Keith, adapted by David Liwei Shi

Listen to the full interviews with Sarah Helm and Brin Ryder 

Aotearoa was the first country to fully legalise drug testing after years of campaigning. Since then, the NZ Drug Foundation and KnowYourStuffNZ have offered free, confidential, drug checking at summer festivals.

Drug checking is a proven, effective harm reduction tool that saves lives, and has been crucial for providing people with accurate information to make informed and safe decisions. 

With the summer festival season approaching, these services are especially needed. 

But KnowYourStuffNZ’s Brin Ryder says these services are underfunded and there are not enough testing machines to be distributed to all major festivals. 

Because drug checking will not be at every festival, Ryder is urging festival goers to think about drug harm reduction well ahead of time.

Ryder says they are expecting to see a high prevalence of Cathinone being mis-sold as MDMA and encourages people to get their substance-tested services around the country.

According to NZ Drug Foundation, there has been a 54% increase in drug overdose deaths between 2017 and 2021.

Executive Director Sarah Helm told The Wire that overdoses are preventable but that there is “little support from healthcare services and police.”

Helm wants to see strategies like an overdose prevention centre and increased access to Naloxone - an overdose reversal drug, be implemented in Aotearoa. 

Public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air