Festivalgoers attending the annual Body & Soul Festival in Co Westmeath this weekend will be among the first to be targetted by the HSE’s new drug harm-reduction campaign.
Launched this week, the campaign aims to promote drug risk-reduction messages, and will see Drugs.ie teams on-site at events across the country this summer.
Teams will talk to attendees about drug trends and harm-reduction practices and all medics on site have been trained in new drug trends and substances.
While the safest practice is, of course, abstention, the new campaign acknowledges the fact that people are experimenting with, and using, drugs.
One of the biggest issues highlighted by experts is the risky practice of mixing drugs, whether that’s cocaine and ketamine, or alcohol and other substances.
Dr Eamon Keenan, HSE’s National Clinical Lead-Addiction Services, said, “We are aware that young people mix drugs, and of certain trends related to this, such as mixing cocaine and ketamine. We are also aware that young people are using newer drugs such as 2 CB.
“Ireland ranks third highest for the use of cocaine in Europe and second for the use of MDMA, after the Netherlands. We are particularly concerned in relation to high potency MDMA and other drugs that are circulating in Europe.
“We anticipate these trends for festival season, but mixing drugs, even with alcohol, increases your risk of adverse consequences or overdosing.”
While young people may be wary of revealing that they have used drugs to medics, even when they feel unwell, Dr Keenan advises that people should “not be afraid to get help and be honest with emergency services about what was taken” as “they are there to help”.
In tandem with the campaign, the HSE has also launched a study to gain a better understanding of festival drug use and the most appropriate harm-reduction practices.
‘What are you taking?’ is being conducted by Dr Jo-Hanna Ivers from Trinity College Dublin and aims to investigate festival drug trends, health and sexual wellbeing, favoured music genres, and whether or not people would use drug testing facilities at festivals.
With new drugs and trends emerging all the time within the ever-evolving festival and club scenes it is difficult to keep on top of appropriate harm-reduction measures.
The study is the first Irish study aiming to garner information from festivalgoers themselves.
“Music festivals are a massive part of Irish and European culture, and club drugs are a dominant part of the festival experience for many. Nevertheless, given the high turnover of new drugs and the environment that these substances are taken, the risk of overdose is high,” says Dr Ivers.
“However, few studies have consulted with festival goers around this issue. The current study is the first of its kind in an Irish context and one of few internationally. The study will provide key insights into attitudes towards use and need for harm reduction measures.”
Harm-reduction measures from the experts:
Leave the mixing to the DJ
Mixing drugs, including alcohol and prescription medication increases your risk of becoming unwell or overdosing.
Keep cool and stay hydrated
Sip water but don’t drink over a pint an hour. Take breaks from dancing and give yourself time to cool down.
Don’t be afraid to get help
Especially if you or a friend becomes unwell or feels suicidal after using drugs. Be honest with emergency services about what was taken, they are there to help.
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