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Transcript: Test Your Drugs: A Trip With James - Consume This podcast

Our first episode takes us on a journey into the world of drug checking clinics & harm reduction. Aotearoa is the first country in the world to explicitly legalise these testing services. In this episode, we attend a session a Know Your Stuff session with James. He has a brown powder sold as MDMA, but is it? There's only one way to find out.

Jon Duffy: Hi, Jon Duffy here, co-host of Consume This. Welcome to a new season. This season we'll be trying something a little bit different, and we'll be focusing really heavily on health related topics with support from the Ministry of Health.

Jon Duffy: I'll hand you over now to my co-host Sophie Richardson, who'll be hosting this episode. Sophie's a former customs officer. The relevance of that will become apparent very quickly as you get into this podcast. So enjoy over to you Soph.

(Busy street noise)

Sophie Richardson: It's rush hour, just after 5:00 PM. My producer Tom and I are heading down a busy Manners street in Central Wellington. We're running late because of course we are. The sun's out, but so is the wind. On either side of us workers are streaming out of office buildings and jumping onto the buses that line the street.

Sophie Richardson: Normally I'd be swiping my Snapper and heading home around this time as well, but not today. Microphones in hand we walk towards Te Aro Park. Well, actually calling it a park is a bit generous. It's really a small, pigeon filled strip of grass sandwich between two busy roads. It's here we've agreed to meet our guest. We haven't met before. All we have to go on is an old photo and a description of his outfit.

Sophie Richardson: "Oh, I've spotted him, Tom. He's sitting alone with his phone wearing jeans, a pink t-shirt and a black beanie as described."

Sophie Richardson: Hi.

James: Hey there.

Sophie Richardson: I'm Sophie. Nice to meet you.

James: Nice to meet you. I'm James.

Sophie Richardson: James is in his early twenties. He looks relaxed, perched on the edge of the grass, scrolling through his phone.

Producer Tom: Um, so yeah, how are you doing?

James: Eh? Not too bad, man.

Producer Tom: Good.

James: Just finished work.

Producer Tom: Good.

Sophie Richardson: Now, what we're about to do feels like it should be illegal. A feeling that's not helped when Tom drags us down a small back alley in an attempt to escape the wind.

Producer Tom: In front of this garage I think will do.

Sophie Richardson: Yeah.

Sophie Richardson: It's just us, a skater practicing kick flips and a small collection of wheely bins.

Sophie Richardson: It's here that James - that's not his real name by the way - pulls a small, bright yellow baggie out of his pocket. It's emblazoned with the classic acid house smiley. The baggie contains a small, transparent capsule filled with a fine brownish beige powder.

Sophie Richardson: So we've got drugs...

James: We do indeed.

Sophie Richardson: What do we think they are?

James: Uh, MDMA

Sophie Richardson: Yeah? And how sure are we of that?

James: It doesn't hurt just to check. It's from a pretty reliable source, but yeah, sometimes you never know.

Sophie Richardson: Now you can see why I said at the start what we're about to do feels illegal. Obviously, if we were buying this powder off James, well that would be a crime. It would also be a crime if we took possession of it, but we're not.

Sophie Richardson: It's the words at the end of his sentence that I want you to focus on. - It's from a pretty reliable source, but sometimes you never know.

Sophie Richardson: What James has could well be MDMA, but it also could be something unexpected, maybe more harmful, or even a whole lot of nothing. This happened recently when in the Wairarapa 12 people were hospitalised after taking a white powder, which was sold as both cocaine and meth, but it turned out to contain fentanyl.

Sophie Richardson: Fentanyl is active in much smaller doses than either coke or meth, so it's easy to take too much, especially if you don't know it's there. That's a big issue in the illegal drugs market. James might know his dealer, but he doesn't know his dealer's dealer or any other links in the chain that will likely stretch back to a clandestine lab overseas.

Sophie Richardson: It's an issue that Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick has been very vocal about...

Chlöe Swarbrick: Because the reality is that we have unknown people in unknown places consuming unknown substances to unknown effect. The very least that you can do is inform people about what they're doing, and the evidence shows us that people make better decisions when they have that information.

Chlöe Swarbrick: So, Mr. Speaker, to the bill in front of us tonight, as has been outlined by other speakers, uh, it makes permanent the amendment to section 12 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Sophie Richardson: The bill that Chlöe is talking about is, uh, well, frankly, it's a bit of a mouthful, but I'm gonna say it just once, so you've got the whole title.

Sophie Richardson: It's the "Misuse of Drugs (Drug and Substance Checking Service Providers) Regulations". There you go. You're welcome. In brief, it makes it lawful to operate and attend drug testing clinics. They're free to access services which are designed to remove some of those unknowns. You can take a sample, get it tested, and find out for sure what it.

Sophie Richardson: This enables people like James to make informed decisions about what they put in their body. It might seem obvious, but as we duck out of our alleyway and back onto the main road, I asked James why this is important to him.

James: Obviously, harm reduction is, yeah. In my past endeavors, I have had friends that have overdosed from certain substances.

James: They say, oh yeah, we, we've got ecstasy and it's not ecstasy and you know, hospital trips, anything like that. So it's always like, I always try to make sure I know what I'm doing before partaking.

Sophie Richardson: So if we find out that the MDMA that we think we have is not actually MDMA, what are we gonna do with it?

James: Um, Well, I guess it really depends. Like I'd say as long as it's not something like threat... like all drugs are threatening to your health, but something that's not gonna like be a concern, then it will probably be all right for me if I'm being completely honest.

Producer Tom: Okay. So what would crossover the line into concern?

James: Probably Eutylone, bath salts, that kind of stuff.

Sophie Richardson: And if it crosses over the line into something that James considers too harmful then what?

James: Just gonna have to chuck it.

Sophie Richardson: He's not alone in that attitude. Research shows that around 60% of people won't take a substance if the testing comes back as something they weren't expecting.

Sophie Richardson: Now, now, now, I know there'll be someone listening to this thinking, no, Sophie, the only safe drug is no drug. And that may be true, but we've been pushing that for a long time and we know people still take drugs. In the three months from April to June this year, police wastewater testing estimated that as a nation we consumed more than 8.5 kilos of MDMA a week. That's around 85,000 doses - of just one drug!

Sophie Richardson: Plus we're a Consumer NZ, long established fans of independent testing and consumer education. When people have knowledge, they can make better decisions. That's exactly what drug testing enables. Parliament initially voted the bill through as a one year trial in December, 2020.

Sophie Richardson: New Zealand

Parliament Vote Count: Labor 65 votes in favour. New Zealand National 33 votes opposed. Green party of Aotearoa New Zealand, 10 votes in favor.

Sophie Richardson: And November last year it became permanent and finally came into force in may.

Parliament Vote Count: The ayes are 87, the noes are 33. The motion is agreed to.

Sophie Richardson: That's not to say that anyone can just set up a clinic. Services need a license to operate from the director general of health, and there are stringent requirements. I won't go into all of them, but they're the kinds of things you'd expect. Sufficient training, detailed record keeping, rigorous processes for the handling and disposal of samples, that sort of thing.

Sophie Richardson: So who is running these services? Well, there are currently four licensed testing providers. Between them they run regular sessions around the country and pop up at various festivals and events.

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Sophie Richardson: They are the Drug Foundation, ESR, the Needle Exchange, and the service we are heading to today.

Casey Spearin: So know Your Stuff was founded about seven or eight years ago now.

Sophie Richardson: This is Casey Spearin, she's Know Your Stuff's Wellington Regional manager.

Casey Spearin: We want to empower people to make safe choices, so we offer people knowledge and information that they can use to help protect themselves if they choose to take drugs.

Sophie Richardson: Know Your Stuff is really the pioneer of independent consumer drug testing in Aotearoa.

Casey Spearin: Well, I was there the very first time that Wendy Allison set it up, and it was yeah, kind of underneath a table at the back of a dance floor in a very, well, it started in very kind of clandestine and a gray legal area.

Casey Spearin: People could bring their drugs to us and we would tell them what was in it. And over the years it has grown. And now we also offer clinics in major cities across the country.

Sophie Richardson: They also deserve a lot of credit for kickstarting, the harm reduction conversation.

Casey Spearin: So harm reduction is the idea that when someone has made a choice, say made the choice to take drugs, we are just trying to offer them information to make safer choices. If that's, maybe you shouldn't take this. Uh, maybe you should take less of it. Make sure there's someone around to check up on you.

Casey Spearin: So we acknowledge we can't avoid harm. That harm is already happening and that, you know, prohibition also doesn't reduce harm. So we just look for the gaps where we can fit in to help keep people safe.

Sophie Richardson: You might also be wondering how they've been offering their services for so long, given the testing legislation only became permanent in May. I was certainly curious.

Casey Spearin: Uh, yes, in a very legal gray area. And it was the relationships that we had with people such as the police and such as medics and stuff that, uh, allowed us to operate because they could see the benefits that we were offering.

Casey Spearin: With the legislation change a few different things happened. One is that we could handle substances ourselves. So previously we weren't allowed to touch anything, which meant when a client came by, they would have to, yeah, handle the substance themselves. They would have to put it on the machines themselves and wait around for the results to come through. So that made testing a substance take a lot longer.

Sophie Richardson: We touched on the reason for this earlier. Prior to the legislation change if James handed over a sample to a Know Your Stuff volunteer, he would technically be committing a crime - supplying a controlled drug. Something that is really designed to criminalise dealers, not people seeking health advice.

Casey Spearin: It meant that if you're at a festival, you had to wait in line and be there to do the testing yourself, which could mean, you know, hours standing in the line in hot sun when you wanna be going out doing other fun things.

Sophie Richardson: Since the law changed, that is no longer the case.

Casey Spearin: Being allowed to handle it means that someone can come drop the substance off, we'll take it away, test it, and then they can come back later and get the results, which means that we can put many, many more samples through in the same amount of time.

Sophie Richardson: The result of this is that more people can make use of the service, particularly at really busy events like festivals.

(Street noise)

Sophie Richardson: Back out on the street with James we finally make it to the Wellington test site.

Producer Tom: Alright, so it should be 263. Yeah, so it should be level four.

Sophie Richardson: It's not very well signed posted, like I wouldn't know it was in here.

Sophie Richardson: The building. Know Your Stuff are operating again is unassuming...

Sophie Richardson: There's a lift out of service, so we have to make the trek up several flights of stairs.

(The sound of us walking up the stairs)

Sophie Richardson: When we reach their floor the doors open onto a light airy office. It's filled with pot plants and decorated and bright orange accents.

Sophie Richardson: There's a team of people in branded t-shirts setting up equipment and walking a handful of other clients through the process.

Producer Tom: Hello,

Sophie Richardson: James is greeted by a man who we later discover is a longtime volunteer Jeffery.

Jeffery: So firstly, we'll just get you to read and agree to this before we can continue.

James: Cool. So I acknowledge and understand that drug checking does not provide a guarantee of safety.

James: All drug use is risky and the only way to be completely safe is to not use drugs. Information I receive is not an endorsement of my drugs or my drug use, but it's provided for the purpose of reducing harm. My decisions about drug use are mine alone.

Jeffery: Sweet. Is that all right with you?

James: Yep, that's absolutely fine.

Jeffery: Okay. Okay. What can we do for you today?

James: Um, so I have a little baby cap of supposedly MDMA.

Jeffery: Yep.

James: And I'd just like to know if it is MDMA.

Jeffery: No problem. Happy to check that for you. Have you used this substance before or...

James: Uh, no, not yet.

Jeffery: No. Okay. That's excellent that you've come to, to check with us first.

(Sounds of baggie rustling)

Jeffery: All right, so there's not too many samples waiting to be tested, so you shouldn't be waiting too long.

Sophie Richardson: At this point Jeffery logs the sample into the system, places it into a queue for testing, and gives James a card with a number on it. The whole process is anonymous. For obvious reasons Know Your Stuff doesn't collect any data about their clients. That number is the only piece of information that links James to his sample.

Sophie Richardson: The clinic's not particularly busy today. Casey would normally expect 15 to 20 people at a midweek session and a few hundred at a festival. But today I count only five or six others, mostly guys in their mid twenties, young professionals who look like they might be popping in on their way home from work. I don't ask them. I mean, imagine you were attending a confidential health service and Tom and I shoved a microphone into your face. Doubt it would go down.

Casey Spearin: We were always aware when starting out in festivals that we were providing a service to a very kind of specific demographic. That was just because it was the low hanging fruit.

Casey Spearin: We are constantly trying to reach new people, reach new demographics, partner with people. So yeah, the people that come to check their drugs at a festival are gonna be very different sometimes to the people that come to a needle exchange. But having run dozens of clinics there isn't one specific kind of person that comes. It's people of all ages and genders, and you really couldn't predict who walks through that door next.

Sophie Richardson: Yeah, and what you also don't know because, well, I guess it's the entire point of why we're here, is what they're going to bring with them.

Casey Spearin: Far and away. The most common drug that we test is MDMA. Second on that could be ketamine, uh, various benzodiazepines, LSD, other stuff like that.

Casey Spearin: What drugs we test will depend a lot on the demographic, depend on the festival. But yeah, MDMA makes up maybe two-thirds of what we test.

Casey Spearin: We find that anywhere from kind of 70 to 80% of the drugs that we test are what they're presumed to be. 20 to 30% aren't. As far as MDMA goes, we will find that if it isn't MDMA, it's often Eutylone, which, uh, can be about 30% of the MDMA.

Sophie Richardson: Up to 30% being misbranded seems like quite a lot to me. So what happens when someone brings in a sample they believe to be MDMA, but it turns out to be Eutylone?

Casey Spearin: So we would sit them down and say, sorry to tell you, but it's actually Eutylone. Um, they might not know what it is, but we can tell them a little bit about the effects of it.

Casey Spearin: Eutylone will feel like MDMA for about the first hour and then the kind of euphoria and the good feelings will wear off quite quickly. And what happens is people will re-dose kind of chasing that feeling. It can end up that they get very strung out. You know, you can not sleep for days. Even if someone chooses to hold onto the drug, we can also offer them advice for, maybe don't take as much of it as you were intending to, or try a little bit, or here's some more information that you can go to look up this when you get home, you know, Google it and educate yourself a little bit.

Sophie Richardson: Eutylone is one of the things that James has already told us he will definitely ditch, but is it what he's got? Our sample's worked its way to the front of the queue, so let's go and find out.

Alex: Cool. Hi, I'm uh, Alex and I'm running the spectrometer today. So...

Sophie Richardson: What on earth is a spectrometer?

Alex: A spectrometer is a fancy machine that has a laser in it that shines through our substance, possibly drugs, and tells us what it thinks is inside it.

Sophie Richardson: And it's sponsored by Chlöe Swarbrick?

Alex: This one has a picture of Chlöe on it, cause Chlöe is obviously amazing and, um, was a key part in the, drug reform and continues to be. So, yes, all of our specs have a name so we don't get them confused.

Sophie Richardson: The spectrometer is about the size of a large home office printer. It looks like one too, except it's hundreds of times more expensive. It basically works by quantum mechanics, but despite Tom's attempt to convince us that, that's super interesting we're not gonna get into it. In simple terms, it fires lasers at the samples to discover what they are.

Sophie Richardson: Fire the laser beams.

(Cartoon laser sound)

Alex: We go through a lot of isopropyl alcohol and a lot of cotton swabs cuz we clean everything very thoroughly all the time.

Alex: Cool. So we have, uh, what is presumed to be MDMA. So what we're going to start by doing is just running a background test, which is basically getting the spec ready before we put things on it. And then a second we should see a nice flat blue line, and if it's not flat it means I haven't cleaned it properly.

Alex: Cool. Well, that's our flat blue line there. If for some reason that's spiky it probably means I need to give it another clean and try again. So we're pretty happy at that point. So what we're gonna do now is put our substance onto the spec.

Alex: Yeah, really helpful that that cap's on tight.

Alex: Okay.

Sophie Richardson: The next step is to get some of the powder out of the capsule and ready for testing. Alex only needs a very small sample, but getting that is proven difficult.

Alex: The capsule's not opening, and if I try and force it too much, it's gonna explode everywhere.

Alex: Excuse me. I'll grab that.

Alex: Last thing we need is MDMA all over the laptop.

Sophie Richardson: Or just vague beige powder.

Alex: Yes. Or who knows what all over our laptop. Hopefully we know soon.

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Sophie Richardson: The cap should in theory just slide open, but it's been sitting squished together in James' wallet all day, so it's stuck. Eventually Alex resorts to cutting it open with some scissors.

Alex: All right, I think we might finally . Have got some drugs.

Alex: And so you'll see there's a little square diamond on the spec and that's what we're gonna cover. So first we've gotta make sure we've crushed it up because if we get something that's too hard on it, we're not gonna get as good a reading and we might damage something. So we're gonna make sure it's nice and smooth.

(Crushing noises)

Sophie Richardson: So if you get a pill, you have to like spend time just smooshing it up?

Alex: Yeah. Well, pills are slightly different in that, if we ever get so in a bag it's easier to get what's our best guess at a representative sample. Cause everything's kind of mixed up.

Sophie Richardson: Right.

Alex: The thing with a pill is if you take a scraping from the outside, it might be quite different than what's in the inside. So with the pill we normally try and cut it in half.

Sophie Richardson: Yeah.

Alex: Or at least get a good way into it, and then try and take a sample from inside. So one of the things we've gotta bear in mind with drug checking is we are taking a small part of a larger sample and that may or may not be representative of the full sample.

Alex: And so for things, uh, some things that are dangerous but are present in tiny quantities, that makes it less likely that we'll basically get the right bit in our sample. So Fentanyl is a classic example. It's got very, very small active doses, so we might see it, but equally the part of the drug that we have tested, we might not see it in.

Alex: So that is, yeah, one of the limitations we have.

Sophie Richardson: Yeah.

Alex: Cool. So we've got that covered, and now we will run our test.

Sophie Richardson: After about 30 seconds, the spectrometer spits out a graph of the substances infrared absorption pattern. Basically, the lasers have fired and it spits out a wibbly line. This gets automatically compared to the TICTAC spectroscopy library. That's basically a huge library of all the graphs for different controlled substances. When it finds a match, it spits out the result.

Alex: So in this case, it's a really good quality hit.

Sophie Richardson: What Alex means here is that it's a strong match with one of the samples contained in the TICTAC library, but which one? We'll find out soon.

Alex: Yeah, so we've entered that into our system, and then that'll sync across to our harm reduction volunteers, so they'll know all the information. And that's testing done.

Sophie Richardson: Now the result is logged into the system, which means that Jeff, he's the volunteer from before, can pick it up on his laptop in the harm reduction area and prepare for his conversation with James. We'll head over there in a sec to find out if our substance really is MDMA.

Sophie Richardson: But first I'm curious, do these harm reduction conversations actually work? What evidence do they have to show that the service is keeping people?

Casey Spearin: We do have the evidence that we are helping people make better decisions. We did a survey in 2021 looking at the behaviors of people that used our service. We find that people that come to get their drugs checked are less likely to mix substances, which is a big source of harm. They're more likely to test again in the future, and they're more likely to take less of the substance as well.

Sophie Richardson: If you are interested in digging further into their data. It's all published on the Know Your Stuff website.

Sophie Richardson: A stat that jumped out to me is that three in four people reported having an experience where a drug they took is not what they thought it was, and almost half reported decreasing their dosage after attending a clinic. That's pretty impactful stuff.

Casey Spearin: Offering people information often leads to behavior change. Not all the time, but we do see that in our work. It could even be something as simple as a lot of the pressed pills that we get through that are MDMA, we can test them and say, okay, they are MDMA, but there actually might be three doses worth in here, so take a third of it.

Sophie Richardson: And when they do find those concerningly strong pills or anything else of serious concern, there is a network set up to get that information out there.

Casey Spearin: So we keep a pill library on our website where we will publish photographs of things that we've taken along with information about them. What was in it, how much was in it, that kind of stuff. So people can, log on at home and check that out from themselves.

Casey Spearin: We publish alerts when we find dangerous substances and we do work with High Alert as well, which is the early warning system for Dangerous Substances found in New Zealand. And we have this, yeah, ecosystem of the Drug Foundation and High Alert and a few others all working together to get the information out there when we do find really dangerous things.

Sophie Richardson: This means that if James' sample comes back as something unexpectedly dangerous or someone else brings in one of those super strong pills that Casey just mentioned, they can get the word out fast.

Sophie Richardson: If you have something that you are not sure about, double checking the pill library on Know Your Stuff and the High Alerts website is a good starting point, but it's not really a substitute for getting your own specific sample tested.

Casey Spearin: We always tell people not trust the person that's selling you the drugs when they say that it's been checked or that it's safe, et cetera. Just come do it for yourself, you know, and see it with your own eyes.

Casey Spearin: We don't offer the services to dealers, we don't let people take photos of results or anything like that. And we certainly have seen with some dealers online saying, Hey, this has being checked by, Know Your Stuff. Or, you know, putting up like fake kind of doctored photos that has a fake certificate or a tick mark or something like that. And so we're always telling people don't believe what you see online. We don't provide assurances like that. So if you see it, it's probably fake.

Casey Spearin: Just come and check it for yourself because this is an opaque market. You know, this offers zero protection for consumers. We're just trying to be one little point of clarity in a giant, opaque situation, uh, where it's all based on trust basically.

Sophie Richardson: And with that, it's time for James to get his own personal point of clarity. His sample has been through Chlöe the spectrometer. Alex knows what it is, and so does Jeffery. Now it's time for us to find out.

Jeffery: If you're ready, come on through and we'll, uh, discuss your, uh, substance.

Sophie Richardson: The room we enter is basically just your standard office meeting room, a big whiteboard, a coffee table with some pamphlets and a few seats.

Jeffery: So presume drug was MDMA. Uh, the spectrometer has gone through and it's coming up pretty, pretty high for MDMA. So we'll also check in these scenarios if it's coming up with anything else. Perhaps we'd look into to seeing if there was any binders or fillers or if someone's maybe mixed in more than one substance to try and trick us or anything like that.

James: Yeah.

Jeffery: So we haven't really been able to detect anything else other than . MDMA in there. Um, so substance is, is as presumed and we don't notice any, uh, binders or fillers.

Sophie Richardson: So there it is. The mysterious brown powder that James showed us just a couple of hours ago down that windy side street is as he was hoping MDMA.

Sophie Richardson: And that's exactly the point of testing. It's taken the hypothesis, I believe this is MDMA because my dealer told me it is, tested it and proved it.

Jeffery: Now that you know what the substance is, do you intend to take it?

James: I most likely will take it. I feel a lot more comfortable and have a lot more peace of mind knowing that it is what it says, what I was told it was.

Jeffery: And also, may I ask the consumption method?

James: Probably just dropping it.

Jeffery: Dropping it. Oh, no problem.

Sophie Richardson: Dropping it means taking it orally like you would a paracetamol. It's one of the most common ways of taking MDMA, but it's important for Jeffery to check because different ways of ingesting it might require different harm reduction advice.

Jeffery: Would you like some information? . We have plenty of pamphlets and whatnot to go through.

James: Um, what information have you got?

Jeffery: Um, I'll get you one of these. The main one I'd say. And this is a drug interaction chart, I highly recommend grabbing if you don't have one already. Um, main thing with MDMA I would say is just, um, not to mix it with other substances.

Jeffery: Obviously mixing anything with alcohol is typically bad. That's the most common sort of mixture you're gonna find. Um, and if you're only other medications like the MAOIs or SSRIs, yeah, be cautious there. It's not recommended to mix basically anything with anything.

Sophie Richardson: Jeffery and James go through some other harm reduction advice and tips on dosage that I'm not gonna include here, because honestly, I'm not the right person to be giving out that advice, and some of it's very specific to James' situation.

Sophie Richardson: If you would like to know more, particularly about which substances don't mix well together, then I'd recommend checking an impartial, reliable source. A good starting point would be the Know Your Stuff and Drug Foundation websites. We'll put some links to those in the show notes.

Jeffery: Yeah, no, if there's no other questions, we'd probably leave it there.

James: Yeah, I'm pretty happy.

Jeffery: Excellent.

Sophie Richardson: But as Jeff slides out of the room, I do have another question for James...

Sophie Richardson: You know, given that we've got some advice about what not to take with MDMA, does that inform your decision making at all? About how you take it.

James: Yeah. Yeah. Most likely just being a lot more weary when it comes to alcohol and MDMA.

Sophie Richardson: Sort of like how much you're drinking?

James: Yeah, absolutely.

Sophie Richardson: What would you tell your friends about your experience today?

James: I'd definitely encourage them to come here more.

Sophie Richardson: Mm-hmm.

James: Just, it's straight to the point. The facts are there. There's no like preaching about, oh, you shouldn't be doing drugs, or, you know, either side.

James: It's just very straight to the point of, here are the facts use with your own discretion kind of.

(Cartoon laser sound)

Sophie Richardson: As you might have gathered from some of my questions throughout this episode, I'm a bit of a square when it comes to drug taking. I think the interesting thing for me is that James hasn't increased his drug taking since being able to get his stuff tested and the data about drug use seems to suggest this is true for a lot of people. Basically, all the legalisation of drug testing has done, it seems, is to make it safer for people who do take drugs.

Sophie Richardson: If I have to leave you with just one message at the end of this episode, it would be to go back to the disclaimer James read out nearer start. Drugs can be harmful and as an organisation we are obviously not promoting or endorsing the use of illegal drugs.

Sophie Richardson: But if there's one thing we do like to promote at Consumer, it's scientific testing and making informed decisions. At least some drug harm comes from the uncertainty of not knowing for sure what the pills or the mysterious brown powder actually is. Thanks to the new Misuse Of Drugs (Drug And Substance Checking Service Providers) regulations - nailed it - that no longer needs to be an issue.

Sophie Richardson: If you are planning on taking drugs, I would encourage you to attend a drug checking clinic near you. It's legal, easy to find, anonymous and might just give you information that prevents a . Real bad trip, or worse.

(Music plays)

Sophie Richardson: If you are concerned about your own drug taking or about a loved one, you can contact the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 797 or text 8681, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are free and confidential. You'll speak with a trained counselor who will be able to provide you with information, insight, and support.

Sophie Richardson: You can find links to that and other useful information, including the schedule of upcoming testing clinics in the show notes.

Sophie Richardson: This episode was made possible with generous support from the Ministry of Health. It was produced by Tom Riste-Smith and presented by myself, award-winning podcaster sophie Richardson.

(Laughter, music ends)

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