Recreational ketamine use has seen a spike in recent years. And with that rise in use, the risk of obtaining a substance other than ketamine has increased as well. Counterfeits that use other substances and bad cuts are a huge risk, and until now, there was no reliable way to test for them.
With the introduction of harm reduction non-profit DanceSafe’s new ketamine test kit, the risk of taking an unknown substance essentially vanishes.
“If you ingest what you think is ketamine, but you’re getting one of these other drugs, you could have a very unpleasant, long-lasting, out-of-body experience where you’re on the ground for 10 hours,” explains Emanuel Sferios, DanceSafe’s founder. “It could also be dangerous in that regard.” For example, if you’re expecting a light experience that would still allow you to walk around and associate with friends, and then you end up not being present for a long time, that could pose a danger, explains Sferios.
The new kit uses a chemical known as the Morris reagent, which is the only reagent currently known to react to the presence of ketamine. When used correctly, the strip turns purple in the presence of ketamine. According to Sferios, most other drugs result in a greenish color. While the color will fluctuate if the ketamine is cut with something that doesn’t react, Sferios adds that since ketamine is the only drug that turns purple, consumers will have peace of mind that they aren’t ingesting something totally unexpected like PCP.
The kits are available on DanceSafe’s website and also at festivals where the DanceSafe team frequently sets up booths or tents.
Sferios founded DanceSafe in 1998 in response to a wave of MDMA-related deaths at the time. He and a team of volunteers would attend raves and test people’s Ecstacy to ensure authenticity. Initially only present in the San Francisco area, the non-profit now has chapters across the country.
The six member DanceSafe team is funded entirely by the sale of their test kits — which, in addition to the ketamine kit, include cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and fentanyl. DanceSafe is the second-largest seller of fentanyl tests in the country, and sells close to 60,000 kits per month, according to Sferios.
“The proceeds from these sales fund our educational programs and our harm reduction services at festivals,” Sferios explains. “So we have over 25 chapters around the country and we serve over 250 festivals a year in the United States.”
The group works with law enforcement harm reduction teams across the country to increase access to test kits and provide education about not only the fentanyl crisis, but drug adulteration across the board.
Image: Nicki Adams with modified graphics from DanceSafe