New ‘bath salt’ detected at University of Otago re-orientation week

A new ‘bath salt’ mimicking MDMA has been found circulating at the University of Otago re-orientation week. 

Drug testing by the New Zealand Drug Foundation has revealed a batch of the previously unidentified substance eutylone is currently circulating at the University of Otago’s re-orientation week.

Eutylone, first detected by KnowYourStuffNZ in December 2018 (known then as C86) is a member of the cathinone family – more commonly referred to as “bath salts”. Described as “a white powder that tends to clump together”, the substance had been sold as MDMA to at least two users of the KnowYourStuffNZ testing service.

Anecdotally, users report similar effects to MDMA, describing a subtle, calming, and social “loved-up high”, according to KnowYourStuffNZ. “Sensations of physical warmth and tingling were described in several reports,” they said. “One user reported feeling unusual heart activity.”

Users also reported redose compulsion – in other words a strong desire to take more of the substance – with most redosing every one to two hours. 

A sample of eutylone. Image: KnowYourStuffNZ

The substance looks virtually identical to most street-quality MDMA found in New Zealand.

“Each year we test around 15 different things that all look exactly like the photo. Just because it’s a brownish crystal does not mean it’s MDMA,” they said on Twitter. “It means it’s a brownish crystal, and could be anything. It’s scary how many people still think crystal means MDMA.”

KnowYourStuffNZ are offering free spectrometry analysis during re-orientation week. However, the substance can also be tested with the use of liquid reagents like the Marquis and Mandelin reagents which will turn yellow/orange or greenish-brown respectively in the presence of eutylone. Substances which contain MDMA will turn the reagents a dark black, however other cathinones have been found mixed with MDMA in the past, so a positive MDMA test doesn’t guarantee an unadulterated substance.

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Image: KnowYourStuffNZ

Eutylone is rarely detected in New Zealand, and the health effects are little understood. However, KnowYourStuffNZ said there are anecdotal reports of several hospitalisations. The drug has been detected in one death in the United States, but the victim had also taken the extremely dangerous opioid fentanyl – just three milligrams of which is enough to kill the average sized man – so the role of eutylone is unclear. Fentanyl was detected in New Zealand for the first time last year. 

Around the same time, N-ethylpentylone, a cathinone which supposedly mimics MDMA (it’s in fact a seedy, cracky, paranoid high) was responsible for mass hospitalisations in Christchurch. Initially, both the police and the DHB announced it was mephedrone, a different cathinone, before they were corrected by KnowYourStuffNZ, who use a spectrometer funded by the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

KnowYourStuffNZ operates free drug tests at festivals and events across New Zealand. However, legalese in the Misuse of Drugs Act means they’re often forced to operate from the shadows to reduce the exposure of users and event organisers. KnowYourStuffNZ spectrometry testing was offered at the University of Otago O-Week for the first time in February this year. 


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