All the gear, no idea

All the gear, no idea

How to take MDMA without frying your brain

Otago is the MDMA capital of New Zealand. 

Wastewater testing has revealed that Otago consumes nearly twice as much MDMA (1.8x) per capita than anywhere else in the country. In Quarter 2 of 2022, the Southern District consumed 538 mg per day per 1,000 people, compared to a national average of 300 mg per day per 1,000 people. Given how popular gear has become around North Dunedin, there’s no doubt that the student population is contributing to these statistics. 

Now, if you've ever taken MDMA, you might have some good things to say about it. You also might already know the potential for MDMA to be used as a tool to enhance experiences or even provide therapeutic benefits. But, like all drugs, there are things you should know before taking it.

Since the legalisation of drug-checking, the service has seen a fair share of gear brought through. And when the drug-checkers chat with the drug-takers, they often find little pre-existing knowledge about the drugs these students are about to consume and, more concerningly, little thought into what else they were going to mix them with.

Let’s see if we can fill in the gaps. Here’s how to take MDMA without cooking yourself.

MDMA and Alcohol Counter-Interact.

Let’s be clear: When you drink on MDMA, you don’t feel the booze as much. This potentially leads to drinking more, which in turn can result in problems once the stimulant properties of MDMA wear off. This combination can be particularly risky considering that binge-drinking culture has become increasingly normal in Dunedin, as this upper/downer combo can result in cardiac arrest or sudden acute alcohol poisoning if you have had too much to drink in a short time frame. That might not sound super cool to say to the boys on the piss, but it’s a whole lot cooler than having to get your stomach pumped. 

But it works the other way, too. Consumption of alcohol may dull the effect of MDMA, leading to higher doses or repeated dosing, which presents other harmful outcomes including adverse events of MDMA like heat stroke, gurning, irregular heartbeats, and even seizures.  

The recent trends in alcohol and MDMA polysubstance use has shown many consumers are not concerned about the amount of substance (both alcohol and MDMA) being taken in one session. The reality of these trends is that these consumers, and those around them, will be exposed to more harmful outcomes.

So how do we navigate these issues?

Well, the easiest way to reduce drug harm is to not take them. But that’s lame and you’re not going to listen to that advice, so here’s some more practical, proactive harm reduction you can use the next time you roll:

Tally your drinks 

Stick to a certain number of standards per hour. What you usually feel after 5 or 6 standards will be different when you take MDMA, so don’t drink more than you usually would. Better yet, enjoy the MDMA on its own! Remember all the good times you'll have, and start drinking after coming down from the MDMA when you will be able to feel alcohol's effects like you normally would. And, like all drugs, dosage is relative to body weight. 100 milligrams is a regular dose for an 80kg person. It’s worth considering your dose before bombing the same amount as someone twice your size.

Consent is an enthusiastic and fully informed “yes” from both parties 

MDMA and alcohol are both disinhibitory drugs. Essentially, they are both able to alter our brain's impulse control, meaning the consumption of one or both results in people more likely to do things they wouldn’t necessarily do under normal circumstances. Get consent for anything that needs it before consumption or wait until after they wear.

 Take your MDMA orally

The safest way to deliver a substance is by sending it through your digestive system. MDMA can be absorbed through various mucosal membranes (gums, nasal cavity, and yes, your rectum too) but these routes of administration come with more harms associated, such as infections or a damaged septum. It will also wear off faster if you do it this way so you’ll be tempted to take more, which is both expensive and risky. If you do choose to snort your MDMA, use your own straw and please, for fuck’s sake, don’t do it off the U-Bar toilet seat.


MDMA might be so much fun that you want to do it every weekend, but that's just not a good idea. Try taking 1-3 months between sessions. Overconsumption is associated with various mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, confusion, memory problems, and behaviour/personality changes. Take some time in between rolls to ensure you’re not overdoing it. Your brain (and bank) will thank you.

Check it before you neck it

Drug-checking is a completely free, legal, and anonymous service that can provide you with a chemical analysis of your substance. Synthetic cathinones or "bath salts" are still around, as well as some other dodgy stuff. Just because it's brown, rocky, and in a cute baggie with love hearts on it doesn’t mean it’s actually MDMA. New Zealand legalised drug-checking in 2021 and the legislation explicitly states that police cannot interfere with the service so that you can check your shit without fear of prosecution.

What else? 

Eat, hydrate, rest and, perhaps most importantly, have fun. If you decide to use MDMA, try to be in the presence of trusted friends in a place you feel comfortable to help reduce any anxiety. It’s also probably worth considering whether you’re in the right frame of mind to take MDMA - if you think you’re not up for it, save it for next time. It’s no stress to say “no”. Lots of other factors go into what can make or break a good roll: bring some earplugs, have a boogie, or do whatever feels right for you. Look out for yourself, and look out for your friends. Kia kaha.

This article first appeared in Issue 7, 2023.
Posted 11:41am Sunday 16th April 2023 by Max Phillips.