Drug checking boost continues to keep New Zealanders safer this summer

Health

The Government has made drug checking services more accessible to keep young people safe this summer, Health Minister Andrew Little says.

Aotearoa now has four licenced organisations to perform drug checking services - KnowYourStuffNZ, New Zealand Drug Foundation, Needle Exchange Services Trust, and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.

"Drug checking is shown to significantly reduce drug harm. Despite recreational drug use being illegal, it is common at summer festivals and events," Andrew Little said.

"These organisations take a health-based approach and play an important role by providing access and choice to a potentially life-saving service.

"This is not about condoning drug use, but about keeping people safe. There is clear evidence that having drug-checking services at festivals changes behaviour and reduces harm," Andrew Little said.

Drug-checking services, in which drugs are checked to see if they are what people think they are, were made legal under this Government for the first time in 2020.

This Government has pledged nearly $4 million over three years towards the costs of delivering drug checking services and delivering harm reduction advice.

"When a person is told that a substance is not what they thought it was, they will often choose not to take it. That is a decision which could save their life."

Last summer, testing by KnowYourStuffNZ found one in five drug samples were not entirely consistent with what people thought they had – including additional psychoactives and impurities. 

Last year, the Government passed permanent legislation so drug checking providers could be licensed and expand their services as required.