Drug testing pilot to launch at festivals in Ireland

today26/05/2023 20

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A drug testing pilot is set to launch at festivals across Ireland this week.

Operated by the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Safer Nightlife programme will allow festival-goers to use its “back of house” drug testing service to help identify any concerns.

This programme was first trialled last year at Ireland’s arts and music festival, Electric Picnic.

The drug testing at Electric Picnic pointed out that high-strength pills were circulating the festival which allowed HSE to warn attendees immediately of the pills which were around “two times the average adult dose”.

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This year, the scheme will launch on Friday at the electronic music event, Life Festival.

“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,” Prof Eamon Keenan, the HSE’s national clinical lead for addiction services told the BBC.

The HSE also explained that it will be working with An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) to guarantee that testing areas at festivals will be safe spaces for people to talk about drugs.

Prof Keenan said according to RTE that people who surrender drugs will not be at risk of being arrested.

He explained: “This is a health-led initiative. We want to get information to people who are at these events and there’s no judgement of people.”

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Last year, research found that drug testing facilities at festivals create a safer environment for attendees, according to The Loop and Liverpool University indicates.

Findings from a focus group of 250,000 people revealed that two-thirds (61%) were unsure about the contents of their drugs before using the testing services provided by The Loop.

The HSE have confirmed that this year, Life Festival and Electric Picnic are set to have drug testing available with no other festivals confirmed.

Find out more on the Health Service Executive’s Safer Nightlife programme here.

Becky Buckle is Mixmag’s Multimedia Editor, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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