Police concerned by emergence of new drug n-ethylpentylone sold as ecstasy

A new drug masquerading as ecstasy has experts worried after six kilograms were netted in a bust by Wellington police this week.

It's part of a worrying trend that could have fatal consequences, as ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a popular drug at music festivals.

But Wendy Allison, director of free drug testing service Know Your Stuff, says many who believe they're taking ecstasy are actually taking something far more dangerous.

"In our testing this season approximately 25 percent of substances brought us as MDMA have turned out not to be, and of those the majority have been n-ethylpentylone."

N-ethylpentylone is a newcomer to New Zealand, only being detected in the country late in 2017. It's cheap and easy to manufacture, but is also far more toxic if it's taken in the same dosage as ecstasy.

"It makes economic sense in a market that encourages people to misrepresent drugs for them to buy a cheaper drug, sell it as a more expensive drug," Ms Allison says.

According to Ms Allison there have already been a number of deaths and hospitalisations overseas due to overdoses of n-ethylpentylone, by people who thought they were taking MDMA.

"Having has too much leads to increased heart rate, increased body temperature, increased blood pressure, anxiety, paranoia, agitation, inability to sleep."

Wellington police arrested five people after an operation busted a ring importing n-ethylpentylone. They netted six kilograms of the drug and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property.

They say although we hear a lot about the harmful impact of Class A drugs like methamphetamine, these drugs are also doing real harm.

"I was surprised at the amount because if you do the maths on that, that's over 90,000 doses, and if it's being sold as MDMA it's still over 30,000 doses - that is a lot of this stuff," Ms Allison says.

She has one message for those dealing the drug as ecstasy: "You're a bunch of dropkicks. Do you really want people to die?"

But she says inevitably these sorts of things will happen, as illegal drugs drive people to find more ways to make money.