Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Fentanyl: it's here

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  • Russell Brown,

    Know Your Stuff’s Jez Weston has just tweeted this explanation of why the result is being announced now, rather than at the time of detection:

    I did the Fentanyl testing at a festival a while ago, but we had to wait to publish to hide which festival it was. This is frustrating. We want to provide timely warnings. Still earlier than everyone else though.

    To explain: the legal risk for event organisers under Section 12 of the Misuse of Drugs Act means that they can’t publicly acknowledge testing on their premises. Announcing the result immediately would have outed the event at which it was derived, so it had to be delayed.

    This is another example of the risk posed by the law it stands.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    At least MDMA proper may have psychotherapeutic benefits for trauma relief if certain clinical trials pan out overseas, but we do need to rationalise our MOD Act when it comes to harm reduction, harm magnitude and severity and risk minimisation. If the problem is adulterated MDMA, and the aforementioned clinical trials show the efficacy of intervention, a medical MDMA legislative reform campaign may be our next avenue.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 566 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Young,

    If the problem is adulterated MDMA

    Not generally adulterated – usually just a completely different substance than it was sold as.

    But Know Your Stuff has been detecting what appear to be deliberately deceptive mixtures intended to confound tests.

    These will fool the reagent test kits people can buy – it takes the spectrometer to detect them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Russell Brown, 37 minutes ago Email Web Twitter
    Know Your Stuff’s Jez Weston has just tweeted this explanation of why the result is being announced now, rather than at the time of detection:

    Could you pass the message back thru twitter, that I for one would appreciate Jez complimenting your efforts, by getting into a dissuasion here.

    This millennia drug culture concerns me. I am responsible for guidance and wisdom toward a millennial teenager...

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to steven crawford,

    This whole millennia drug culture concerns me. I am responsible for guidance and wisdom toward millennial teenager.

    Things used to be a lot simpler, put it that way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Ray Gilbert,

    One of my favourite "quirks" of the current legislation is the rating of fentanyl and its analogues. Heroin is Class A, fentanyl which is 100 times as potent is Class B and carfentanyl which is 50 times as potent as fentanyl and 5000 times as potent as heroin is Class C as it is a fentanyl analogue.

    The obvious differences in the class rating of a drug and its risk index really stand out in this case.

    Since Nov 2006 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Sorry about the editing thing, it's habitable. Yes it was less complicated, but as always, it doesn't hurt to do the Saint johns ambulance first aid corse, just in case someone sitting next to you stops breathing. (for any reason).

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • tatjna, in reply to steven crawford,

    Hi Steven, Wendy Allison from KnowYourStuffNZ here. While we try to stay involved in discussions where we can, we are all volunteers and have full time jobs, and as you can imagine today has been quite busy for us already. If you have any questions, please fire away but we can't guarantee a speedy response.

    We are quite happy to pour compliments on Russell - he is awesome and his grasp of the issues is streets ahead of the majority of folks commenting in this field.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2010 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • Jez Weston,

    (Hi, I did the testing as a volunteer with KnowYourStuffNZ, lead by Wendy Allison. I've a day job, so I'll answer now on my lunchbreak and can answer further questions this evening.)

    Steven's question about teenagers is a common one. I don't think that drug culture is terribly different now - every generation had its drugs. What's different is that there's more information about risks and how to stay safe, more choice of substances, and a more realistic public debate abut drug use. So that's all positive.

    I'd say that every teenager is going to do stupid shit. That's part of growing up, you make mistakes and you learn from them. I broke plenty of bones coming off bikes while learning my limits. The goal isn't to get kids through that stage without mistakes. It's to make sure that the cost of the mistakes is bearable, that the pain is short term, that bones heal, and that there are no long-term health or legal consequences..

    Drugs have two specific factors. The first is that the legal risk is out of all proportion to the health risk. A conviction can seriously mess up your education and career. That's a reason for staying away from drugs.

    The second is that the health risk is hard to quantify, because the substances may be unknown. Testing is a solution here. As Russell said, if you've got MDMA then 100 mg isn't that dangerous to your health, in comparison to a night on the booze. If that MDMA is n-ethylpentylone and you take 100 mg, then that's three or more doses and you're at substantially more risk.

    Teenagers can be a weird combination of smart and stupid. KnowYourStuffNZ tested a lot of drugs for a lot of people this summer. We don't talk about our clients, but I'll just say that some of the younger people (18+) were the best informed, had clearly done their research, had already tested their substances, and came to us to confirm their tests. They knew their stuff. Some of the older people this summer... did not.

    So I suggest treating teenagers like we treat our clients - openly, honestly, and with trust. They are people who want information, who want to balance risk and safety, and who will ultimately make their own decisions.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2017 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to tatjna,

    We are quite happy to pour compliments on Russell – he is awesome and his grasp of the issues is streets ahead of the majority of folks commenting in this field.

    I second that. And I think that some of the decisions that happen in this forum are archival quality. What you people are doing is important, and deserves serious interest from public health decision makers. Good work!

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Jez Weston,

    Jez Weston, about 4 hours ago
    (Hi, I did the testing as a volunteer with KnowYourStuffNZ, lead by Wendy Allison. I’ve a day job, so I’ll answer now on my lunchbreak and can answer further questions this evening.)

    I appreciate that. And can see lots of scope for expansion. So it's good you said that. My gut instinct, is that what you are doing is sort of like what the needle exchange started. Thru association with people I hung out with from the music industry, I was freands with someone who volunteered at the Simon street needle exchange. This friend wasn't a drug user. They where more into the social work. Harm reduction and health promotion. There was an understanding that people used hard drugs for lots of different reasons.

    Drug overdose death, addiction, recovery and moderate safe use, has the potential to be a massive conversation. lots of conversations ( something wanky about saying conversation to many times:-)

    So there's no questions.

    Thanks Jez, good work!

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • tatjna,

    Thanks Steven, the needle exchange model is the one most apt to apply to what we’re doing. They also began with ‘ethical non- compliance’ that produced evidence which demonstated its value.

    Hopefully it won’t take the government 20 years to catch up this time.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2010 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • Trevor Nicholls,

    This may be a dumb question, but what's the incentive for suppliers to insert fentanyl into their "products"? Given how lethal it is the risk of killing their market is so high that I'm wondering where the benefit is.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • tatjna,

    The illicit drug market is global. Economics + distance would be my guess. But it is just a guess.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2010 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    It’s a sad irony that just as the harm reduction approach is about to gain critical mass a new set of drugs comes along to complicate things.

    Harm reduction was based on the fact that drugs in themselves were essentially harmless - at least for all except a very small number.

    But the new drugs are actually harmful. P and synthetics are poisons destroying lives. It’s not a moral panic.

    The hope is that decriminalising the more traditional drugs will result in displacing the new poisons but it could be the genie can’t be put back. It may also take firm disincentives to manufacture and supply, ie long prison time, that haven’t til now been part of the harm reduction paradigm.

    Since Nov 2016 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • tatjna,

    Amphetamine use in NZ has been stable for about 8 years. It is a moral panic, and part of the reason for that is that the marginalisation of methamphetamine and its users means that problematic meth use is now centred in poor communities – and we all know that everything poor people do is something to panic about.

    Meanwhile Fentanyl is a very useful drug for anaesthesia and is quite safe when administered under supervision in accurately measured doses. It’s when its misrepresented as something else in a market with no quality control that deaths occur.

    Neither of these drugs are poisons any more than other drugs, and the harms associated with them are a direct result of the lack of regulation in illicit markets. The solution to this is not more punishment – that method has had 45 years to work and has failed spectacularly to reduce use or harm.

    KnowYourStuffNZ would like nothing better than to be put out of business by a better system, one that includes legal purchase, quality control, and labelling, and doesn't pretend that prohibition had ever worked.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2010 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    It’s probably a good idea to stop calling methamphetamine P. Methamphetamine that’s not been produced in a lab is unlikely to be pure.

    And I have a hunch that the spread of dirty methamphetamine thru the low and no waged community’s was led by double hard criminals who feel at home in prison. It’s well known already that the patched gangs in New Zealand sprung up out of the borstal institute. What’s less know is the types of historic deprivation these state wards endured. That’s because It’s pollicaly uncomfortable. But that’s another story for another time.

    So we know we have people who are undeterred by maximum security prison, because that’s there safe place. We also have people who for what ever [insert pathology] are incapable of anticipating the consequences (to them selves) of there impulsive and grandiose behaviour. People such as Mark Lyons the wealthy businessman, and monster. For these people, prison is not a deterrent, it’s last resort. It’s preventative.

    But for the majority of people we stick in prison in a futile attempt at stopping drug addiction from cramping our style, we destroy all hope. We take people with mental illness’s (which drug addiction also is) and force them into the worst possible place. We try to solve drug addiction problems by making people incapable of escaping phycological and physical violence. And Then, after that, opportunistic pollotitions take this broken demographic, and scapegoat them down at the winz office.

    Its probably reasonable to assume, I think prison is one of the best ways to delude ourselves about fixing 'the problem'.


    So let’s talk about public health:-) most people who do drugs (alcohol is a drug) don’t turn all gangster and burgle our refrigerators. So yes, it’s good to know, for people that need to know, what the shit is. There was bloody outrage when Lewis
    Road Creamery misrepresented its sugar content. And that’s not going to kill your teen age children dead before that hit the ground.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to tatjna,

    KnowYourStuffNZ would like nothing better than to be put out of business by a better system, one that includes legal purchase, quality control, and labelling, and doesn’t pretend that prohibition had ever worked.

    But not all drugs have the same minimal harm. People working in acute health settings do fear for their safety because of heroin but because of P.

    There are anti-social people out there willing to make money out of destroying other peoples’ lives. There’s other people who fall into trouble because of circumstance.

    Since Nov 2016 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Things used to be a lot simpler, put it that way.

    Yeah, about the only thing my peer group had to worry about was being sold cheap and nasty speed masquerading as Ecstacy.

    Obviosly, it was a bit more complicated than that, but we didn't generally have to worry about stopping breathing.....

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • tatjna, in reply to Neil,

    As you are suggesting long prison time as a 'solution' to an alleged problem with methamphetamine, it would be good if you could demonstrate how harsher punishments for supply of methamphetamine has reduced the harm associated with the drug in other countries.

    It would also be good if you could explain how emergency department staff fearing for their safety warrants ratcheting up prohibition and its punishments for methamphetamine, but not, say, for alcohol.

    Finally, please consider how it's possible for a drug like methamphetamine to be administered to children in the US (Desoxyn) while being demonised in NZ, alongside contemplation of the correlation between the marginalisation of a drug and its users, and the harm associated with the drug.

    Prohibition is not, and has never been, a solution, regardless of the dangers associated with specific substances. We need to do better.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2010 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Methamphetamine is a Class A drug, now. It was Class B prior to 2003. The idea back then was that harsher punishment would make it all go away.

    But not all drugs have the same minimal harm. People working in acute health settings do fear for their safety because of heroin but because of P.

    I assumed you mean not because of heroin but because of Methamphetamine also known as speed, pure, P, burn, goey, crank, meth, crystal, ice and yaba.

    Well yes, but I’ll bet they also get the decks clear when someone shows up having any other psychotic episode, that's part of any other illness. Tim Harding, CEO of Care NZ says methamphetamine addicts are relatively easy to manage. They generally sleep in off.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Oh, this also on the same page I linked to above, that explained in 'common sense' language what methamphetamine is.

    Possessing a pipe or utensil for smoking methamphetamine is also an offence and can result in a one year jail term or a fine of up to $1000.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to steven crawford,

    Well yes, but I’ll bet they also get the decks clear when someone shows up having any other psychotic episode, that’s part of any other illness. Tim Harding, CEO of Care NZ says methamphetamine addicts are relatively easy to manage. They generally sleep in off.

    By clear the decks I take it you mean health professionals taking measures to prevent serious physical harm. Meth psychosis is somewhat different to psychosis caused by mental illness. The risks to others are often far higher, deescalation techniques usually don’t work and psychosis from mental illness isn’t caused by someone selling harmful substances for a profit.

    I don’t think Care NZ have much experience with acute meth detox.

    Since Nov 2016 • 351 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Neil,

    I don’t think Care NZ have much experience with acute meth detox.

    I beg your pardon?

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Neil,

    I’m not a big fan of some of the things Tim Harding has done with Care NZ assets (formally NSAD) but I have no doubt what so ever, that he knows first hand what acute meth detox looks like.

    He’s quoted here in a newspaper article from 2009, just as an aside.

    "Tim Harding, chief executive of Care New Zealand, says it is easy to demonise a substance. It is as if a drug is a magic potion. One sip and you are under its spell. All the focus goes on a single threat.

    Yet the truth is that individual responses to a drug, even one as potent as methamphetamine, are surprisingly varied. Some people try it and get little effect, so wonder what the fuss is about. Or others, as with many drugs, do not even enjoy the effects. Instead of making them feel “10-foot high and bullet-proof”, P simply leaves them restless and anxious.

    Harding says for any strong drug, the reasons why people get hooked are usually as much to do with their own personalities and life circumstances as the power of the chemical. This would be the story with cannabis, for example. Surveys show the majority of New Zealand teenagers will try it, yet only 10 per cent become regular users.

    No drug is so powerful that addiction is automatic.

    The drug has to click physiologically and also be filling some psychological need."

    I believe him, he didn’t just Google that up!

    But let’s not loose sight of what the Know Your Stuff’s volunteers doing. It’s to reduce harm. It’s just what being a sober minded adult, is all about. They’re looking out for the kids y’know.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

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