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Pop-up station with substance

The New Zealand Drug Foundation will run a free, legal, and discreet pop-up drug-checking station in Masterton today.

The pop-up will be open to the public from 3pm to 7pm at the Whaiora Medical Centre on Queen St.

After incidents of fentanyl use in Wairarapa last year, the Drug Foundation has run several pop-up drug-checking clinics in the region.

Drug Foundation executive director Sarah Helm said the clinic can test any substance, regardless of its form.

“We check drugs using a few different methods, including a spectrometer which compares a light waveform reading of a substance against a library of over 25,000 substances, and reagent tests, which are chemicals that change colour when certain drugs are detected,” Helm said.

The clinic also provides harm reduction educational conversations after the testing is complete.

“We don’t just tell people what we found, but we have a really good chat about ways that they can stay safer,” she said.

The clinic never confiscates any drugs but can safely dispose of any substances that people don’t want to keep.

Anybody concerned about police involvement should be comforted by the knowledge that the service is completely legal and police cannot use presence at a clinic as part of prosecution, Helm said.

“People are definitely still getting used to this being a completely legal service, and it takes time to build trust in a community,” she said.

“But the law is very clear – drug checking is completely legal.”

Drug checking has been a legal service in New Zealand since 2021 after temporary provisions were made permanent and drug checking was regulated under amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, Psychoactive Substances Act 2013, the Medicines Act 1981, and relevant regulations under those Acts.

Helm said police are very supportive of the programme.

“It reduces harm and saves lives in the community and ultimately makes their jobs easier as they are less likely to have to attend drug harm incidents,” she said.

There are five authorised drug-checking providers in New Zealand: KnowYourStuffNZ, The Institute of Environmental Science and Research, NZ Drug Foundation, The University of Auckland School of Pharmacy, and the New Zealand Needle Exchange Programme.

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