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Drug testing at festivals? Pilot schemes to be investigated

A tweak in policy could see a larger flow of drug testing at events.

The Health and Safety Executive National Social Inclusion Office has recommended pilot schemes for drug testing at events. The proposal comes off the back of a recent HSE report.

The document puts forward a case for limited trial operations at festivals. Drugs put into amnesty bins or ones seized would be tested ‘back of house.’ – no contact with users.

There are already ‘front of house’ programmes in operation where users voluntarily have their substances tested and analysed.

Should the pilot evaluation of a back of house system prove positive, this may support the development of a full, front of house approach for festival settings.

The front of house strategy has shown to engage hard-to-reach individuals with health services. This includes people who would not have had any previous intervention for their substance use.

Recently, The HSE documented two proposals to pilot Ireland’s first front of house testing initiatives. Legality issues meant that the plans had to be dumped.

The back of house idea would require fewer modifications to the proposal and almost certainly cover the legal tweaks needed to convert the idea to practice. According to the paper, this method could provide anonymity within a ‘safe drop’ environment, with care experts on hand to assist and inform.

The report has identified music festivals as a “risk-taking environment” where partygoers are likely to experiment with illegal drugs.

It stated that the “increased purity and potency” of goods, particularly high-strength MDMA, was a source of worry.

It also noted an increase in other drugs including ketamine, as well as 2-CB and GHB, and voiced concern about a poly-drug culture here that involves the usage of numerous substances simultaneously.

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