A drug-checking organisation has warned drug users ahead of New Year's Eve, telling party goers that dangerous drugs are "bloody everywhere".
Know Your Stuff says that its testing reveals that half the drugs purporting to be MDMA contain dangerous cathinones, also known as bath salts.
Dubbing this the "summer of cathinones", Know Your Stuff's Dr Jez Weston revealed a massive uptick in the amount of substances detected.
"The most common cathinone right now is eutylone. We saw small amounts last year and
now there's heaps of it around. This is a big change and bad news," Weston said.
Weston warned that users were redosing with the drug, which offers a shorter "high" than MDMA, and then found themselves unable to sleep for days.
"Initially, eutylone feels like MDMA - euphoria - but that fades after an hour or so. You may think it is weak MDMA and be tempted to take more. Don't.
"We are hearing far too many tales of miserable experiences with eutylone," Weston said.
"The tales are all similar: 'Last night I took some, after an hour or so I thought it was wearing off so I took some more, was awake all night, and now it's midday and I can't sleep and I feel like s***'.
"In some cases, people have had to wait more than 48 hours before they could sleep."
Weston said the organisation knew of at least two people who have needed medical help, one of whom was having seizures.
"The worst outcome is vomiting, convulsions, and possibly death," Weston warned.
He said only a small amount of MDMA was on the market and told users: "If it's not
tested, don't take it."
One young man who claimed to have taken the substance at the Rhythm and Vines festival, believing it was MDMA, told the Herald he had never felt worse in his life.
"It was my first time trying MDMA but after a while I noticed myself going back for more until I couldn't function anymore," he said.
He described a "fast and extreme" high and said: "Once the night ends be prepared to stare at your tent roof for the rest of the night until the sun rises.
"Once you are up you will be in your own world, completely disconnected to everything and everyone."
Police have also warned about the dangers of illicit drugs.
"The easiest way to prevent yourself from harm associated with illicit drug use is to not take them in the first place - this will always be police's advice," a spokeswoman said.
"Illicit drugs are generally manufactured and/or imported by people who put profit above all else and do not consider the health and wellbeing of users.
"The possession and use of illicit drugs is illegal and prosecution remains an option to prevent harm and keep people safe."
Police always have a presence at festivals and say they are "approachable and there to help".
The Government this year said it will pass time-limited legislation to give legal certainty to drug-checking services, so they can carry out their work to keep New Zealanders safer this summer at festivals without fear of prosecution.
Next year, the Government will develop and consult on regulations to provide a long-term solution, Health Minister Andrew Little said.
The Ministry of Health's position is that the only way to guarantee safety from drug harm is to not use drugs.
"Drug checking services are provided in the context of harm reduction. No illicit drug use is safe, but harm reduction strategies can reduce harm for people who chose to consume illicit drugs," a ministry spokeswoman said.
"People who use the service can have their drugs tested, and can have a conversation with a knowledgeable source about the risks they are taking by consuming those drugs.
"This service provides information to people who already intend to take drugs to make better, safer and more informed decisions – including not to use at all."
"Police will continue to work with event organisers to ensure of the wellbeing and safety of everyone attending events."
What does eutylone feel like?
Initially, eutylone feels like MDMA, with a feeling of euphoria, but that fades after an hour or so.
What to do if you have taken eutylone
If you have taken it, don't take any more. Rest, eat and wait it out. Avoid cannabis, alcohol and caffeine. Definitely don't try to drive.
If you have a racing heart, elevated temperature, extreme anxiety, numb, tingling or cold
fingers or toes, or haven't slept for more than 24 hours, don't wait. Seek medical help.
If you are looking after someone who has taken eutylone, help them to stay calm and remind them that they will just have to wait it out. Staying on the couch and bingeing TV might not sound like an exciting time, but it's the best thing they can do in this situation.
How to tell if you have eutylone or MDMA
You cannot tell the difference between MDMA and eutylone based on sight or smell alone.
Know Your Stuff has tested eutylone in many different forms this season: white powder, brown powder, light-coloured lumps that look like Turkish Delight, brown smelly lumps that look like broken biscuit, and light blue pills with a Playboy logo. Get your stuff tested before taking it.
They have found cathinones all over the country, not just in specific regions.
Know Your Stuff says its spectrometers can't be everywhere but reagent tests may help.
Most of the eutylone seen by Know Your Stuff has not been mixed with other substances. With the Cosmic EZTest or the Hemp Store Marquis test cathinones will turn yellow, instead of the black that MDMA gives.
Reagent tests are also not good at telling the difference between cathinones, but the harm reduction advice is the same for all of them - best avoid them.
However, Know Your Stuff reports that Cosmic and the Hemp Store are low on stock for their reagent test kits. If you have a spare test kit, look out for everyone else and ask around to see if anyone else needs testing.
Police will be at events across the country over the holiday and are "there to help".
"Our primary focus is on the wellbeing and safety of all, ensuring revellers stay safe while also being able to enjoy themselves," they said.
They issued these reminders to Kiwis heading out this summer:
• If you are planning on drinking, it's a good idea to have something substantial to eat before you start.
• Have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink.
• Plan how you are getting home at the end of your night, and have the cash, eftpos card or app to pay for transport.
• Look after your friends and stick together so you can watch out for each other.
• Have a place to meet your friends if you do get separated.
• Make sure your phone is fully charged before you head out.
• Never leave your drink unattended or accept any drinks you haven't personally seen poured, especially from strangers.
•If you have concerns about someone's behaviour, call police.
• Make sure you have a designated driver or put aside money for a taxi.
• If you plan to walk, go in pairs or groups, either way have a plan for getting home safely.
Police have asked parents to take note of this advice too, so they can make sure their young ones have the information they need to be safe while having fun.
"We all have a responsibility to ensure our friends and loved ones are safe this summer, so keep an eye out and report any concerns you have," they said.
Police also had advice for those who seek to take advantage of vulnerable or intoxicated people: "Do not do this".
"Do not allow your mates to do this either. Sexual assault is unacceptable. It is never the victim's fault and should not be tolerated in any situation.
"Police take sexual assault extremely seriously. We will respond to and investigate incidents reported to us.
"If you see anything suspicious call 111."