Warning issued after substance misrepresented as MDMA hospitalises people in Hawke's Bay

The misrepresented MDMA.
The misrepresented MDMA. Photo credit: High Alert

Multiple people have been hospitalised after consuming a substance that was misrepresented as MDMA.

The drug information website High Alert said it's found "serious harm" believed to be linked with the consumption of this substance in Hawke's Bay. 

The drug is either small white crystals or rocks, in various sizes, and possibly crushed into powder.

"A small number of people were admitted to hospital after consuming this substance and experiencing serious harm," High Alert said. 

"The effects after consumption are not consistent with typical MDMA use. A sample was provided and preliminary testing showed it to contain dimethylpentylone, a synthetic cathinone."

It isn't known how widely the substance is circulating or what other substances may be found in the sample. High Alert said further analysis is underway.

"High Alert strongly urges caution if taking white crystals/rocks being sold as, or represented as, MDMA. Drug checking is recommended to help minimise the risk."

KnowYourStuffNZ, the NZ Drug Foundation, and NZ Needle Exchange Programme run drug-checking clinics across the country. The schedule is available here and is free, legal, and confidential.

"If you or someone you know takes a substance thought to be MDMA and starts to feel unusual effects, get to hospital or call 111 immediately," High Alert said. 

"Be honest about your drug use - you won't get in trouble and it could save your life."

The physical effects of dimethylpentylone are not well understood, High Alert said, but are likely similar to other synthetic cathinones and include:

  • stimulation
  • high blood pressure, rapid heart rate
  • inability for the body to regulate temperature
  • compulsive redosing
  • loss of consciousness.

High Alert warns an overdose can result in death. Synthetic cathinones can cause someone to feel anxious, agitated, and paranoid. Some people also experience headaches, stomach aches, and difficulty sleeping.

If someone chooses to use this substance, High Alert advises:

  • avoid using alone. Have a buddy who can help, and call an ambulance, if things go wrong. This includes having someone around after use - the people involved in this harm incident experienced serious symptoms about 12 hours after using the substance
  • lower doses are less risky. Start off with a small amount to check how it affects you. Be aware of the possibility of delayed onset of adverse effects
  • in general, swallowing a substance has a slower onset than other methods and means there might be more time to get medical help if needed
  • avoid using with other substances, including alcohol. Do not try to drive
  • get it checked at a licensed drug-checking service before taking it
  • use a reagent test to check it first. Marquis and Mandalin reagents will turn black if there is any MDMA present (remember there may be other substances present in the mixture too). A different colour or no change indicates that the sample you tested does not contain any MDMA.