- 22 May 23
The Safer Nightlife harm reduction programme will be rolled out at Life Festival in Mullingar.
Ireland's summer festivals will feature the HSE's new drugs testing scheme, which was initially piloted at Electric Picnic 2022.
The Safer Nightlife harm reduction programme involved outreach as well as “back of house” drug checking through the use of surrender bins.
Professor Eamon Keenan, the HSE's National Clinical Lead for Addiction Services, has described the higher strength and danger of drugs being found at festivals; meaning that proper testing couldn't come at a more potent time.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland today, Professor Keenan said it will begin at Life Festival in Mullingar this weekend. The hope is that drug testing services will minimise potential overdoses, adverse reactions and even death.
Vast differences in MDMA concentrations in apparently identical “skull” pills and new psychoactive substances being mis-sold as MDMA pills or crystal are among Health Service Executive concerns as festival season gets underway.
As well as these bins, there will be medical tents where non-judgemental information can be sought about how to be safe while taking drugs.
At the Electric Picnic, HSE testers found “trends of concern including high potency drugs, 12 new psychoactive substances and four drugs which had never been identified before in Ireland”, said Professor Keenan.
“As well as high-strength drugs, as seen recently in the UK, we are currently concerned about the possibility of new psychoactive substances being mis-sold as MDMA pills or crystal, cocaine and cannabis.”
Testers will aim to discover whether drugs contain harmful adulterants, if new drugs are in circulation or if something poses an extra risk due to its strength.
New drugs such as synthetic cathinone [similar to amphetamine] in stimulants and synthetic cannabinoids which could be sold as cannabis, vape or edibles are also cause for concern, apparently.
Among the measures people can take to be safe are to tell friends if deciding to use drugs at the festival and try to have one friend who doesn’t use. Start with a low dose, leave time to see how you react and don’t take any more if your reaction is unexpected. Don’t mix drugs including with alcohol or prescription medication and keep cool and stay hydrated, but don’t drink more than a pint an hour.
Don’t be afraid to get help if you or a friend becomes physically or mentally unwell. Be aware of the location of the medical tent at events and what you would do in case of an emergency. The HSE has advised festival-goers to be honest with medics about what was taken, as they're there to help.
Professor Keenan said in a statement: “I am delighted to launch the second phase of our Safer Nightlife campaign that includes an expanded ‘back of house’ drug checking service with an aim to identify drug market trends of concern. This approach will improve our drug monitoring capabilities and help to tailor our harm reduction services in Ireland.
“Through a ‘back of house’ approach we can access drugs in a safe, non-judgemental manner to quickly gain insight on what drugs may be in circulation and issue real time drug alerts about substances of concern to festival attendees via our social media channels," the HSE Professor added.
“As shown at the first phase conducted at Electric Picnic last summer, this approach has the potential to identify trends otherwise unknown. The HSE found trends of concern including high potency drugs, 12 new psychoactive substances and 4 drugs which had never been identified before in Ireland.
“We are working with An Garda Síochána to guarantee that the Drugs.ie and medical tents are health-led settings and safe spaces for people to talk about their use and consider surrendering drugs.
“As well as high strength drugs appearing, as seen recently in the UK, we are currently concerned about the possibility of new psychoactive substances being mis-sold as MDMA pills or crystal, cocaine and cannabis. New drugs are continuing to emerge and we must be aware of the risks they pose, in particular the risks of overdose and mental health problems.”
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- 18 Aug 22