(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.
Are punters given the full breakdown of what’s actually in their putative pills, or just the binary of whether or not it is what they think they should have?
I've been helping KnowYourStuffNZ with the testing this summer.
We are using both reagent testing and FT-IR spectroscopy. For 95% of samples, we can tell people what psychoactives are present.
So we're not just telling people that what they have is not what they presumed, we can say something like "in the sample you have, we haven't detected MDMA, but we have detected X, Y, and Z". Then people can make their decision based on that information.