Drugs testing at festivals: Is enough being done to keep users safe?

Taking drugs has been popular at Britain’s music festivals for decades. However, in recent years, a sudden spike in the concentration of drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, as well as much stronger substances such as fentanyl, has seen the danger posed by these substances reach new levels. This has also seen the rise of more and more toxic and unsafe substances being used to cut drugs with; the BBC reported they are: ‘ranging from crushed anti-malarial tablets and plaster of paris to body-building supplements and sugar.’ – BBC.

This report comes after a summer fraught with drug-related deaths at British festivals. These worrying reports have prompted charity The Loop to take measures to try to regulate some of the drugs being taken at Britain’s festivals. The Loop provides services such as drug testing kits and drug safety seminars, preventing harm caused by drugs and harmful substances. It was established in 2013 and has since been working to promote awareness of the dangers that can face those who take drugs without knowing what they are made of.

This summer saw the charity introduce anonymous drug testing services at seven festivals across the UK, analysing the compounds that make up a sample to determine the strength and safety of the substance.

At Boomtown Festival in August, the charity received around 1000 samples which were deposited anonymously by festival-goers. This shows that people seem to be willing to get their substances tested, with around half of those who took part saying that they would reduce the quantities that they took after finding out the concentration of the drugs in question.
However, is this going far enough to protect those who choose to take potentially dangerous substances?

For now, it seems that anything that can help prevent needless deaths at the UK’s music festivals needs to be considered, and the actions of The Loop are a great step in the right direction. People need to be having conversations about taking drugs in a way that is not condescending, and that is relevant to the welfare of those who take them. It seems inevitable that despite extensive searches, drugs will find their way into festivals one way or another, and people will be keen to take them. Hence, the best course of action – as well as all the current precautions such as searches and drug testing – can be found in educating those who wish to take these substances. By improving awareness of what can go into the drugs people are purchasing, and the consequences that can come from taking a badly cut substance, people can be more aware of what it is they are putting into their systems.

It really is crucial that people have these open, honest conversations about substance use, and that people are aware of the dangers and consequences that can come from taking them. Awareness, drugs testing and more searches are key to helping tackle this problem and help avoid tragic circumstances.

The Loop, as well as other great charities such as Frank, are helping hugely to create a safe, non-judgemental environment for education surrounding drugs in the UK. If you or someone you know needs help in an emergency, then do not hesitate to call emergency services, and see this page on Frank for advice on emergency care. To find out more about the amazing work that these charities do, check out details about The Loop and Frank.

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