Drug Checking Saves Lives at Music Festivals

published on December 21, 2017 by The Runner in Gabrielle Lakusta

Harm prevention methods used at Shambhala could help lessen the devastation of Canada’s fentanyl crisis

After five different tests were done to detect dangerous substances in his sugar cube—supposed to contain LSD—Marc Andrews knew to take the experience seriously.

This was the 30-year-old’s first time at Shambhala Music Festival and his first time trying LSD, so he decided to take advantage of the drug checking that was offered there. As he sat in the warm harm-reduction tent, he thought about who he had purchased the sugar cubes from. The dealer had assured him that he purchased LSD in liquid form and put it in sugar cubes himself, adding that he was a regular user.

This evidence originates mainly from Europe, says Dr. Kenneth Tupper, the Director of Implementation and Strategic Partnerships at BCCSU, who is leading the drug-checking pilot.

“What we’re doing now will hopefully apply to more clients, ideally the party community and the people using drugs at home,” he says. “People want to know what’s in their substance.”

Tupper previously volunteered with Party Safe, an organization focusing on harm reduction at music events. Later, when working with the Ministry of Health, he tried implementing harm reduction, but there wasn’t a place for it until the fentanyl crisis began. The drug checking—along with education and other harm reduction techniques—is now available four days a week.

“It’s an opportunity to talk to people and build trust and have them deal with other potential health issues,” he says.

Organizers pushed for Shambhala to be a 19-plus event, but by doing so, people who are underage may go into isolated areas where there’s no cell phone service to have parties, Sage says. That can be risky. When there’s no support available for youth, and “when we push people underground, it gets dangerous,” she explains.

View the full article