HSE to set up laboratory at Electric Picnic which will test illegal drugs
The landmark trial will take place at the music festival next month.
The HSE has announced it will run a trial at this year's Electric Picnic whereby illegal drugs will be analysed at the event.
In partnership with the Department of Health and the Department of Tourism and Culture, the health service said the scheme is part of plans for a drug monitoring programme to examine drugs and "provide real-time information" in a festival setting.
This is in an effort to improve emerging drug trend responses and to reduce drug-related harm in Ireland.
The pilot programme will initially take place at the next Electric Picnic and will be implemented as part of the HSE Safer Nightlife harm reduction campaign which was launched earlier this year.
The trial is being introduced so the health service can gain knowledge on current drug market trends so they can improve harm reduction responses specific to nightlife settings.
"The HSE aims to obtain substances by those engaged with their team at a designated tent and who choose to anonymously submit substances to a ‘surrender bin’ so the HSE can identify and communicate if extra dangerous substances are in circulation," it said in a statement.
"The HSE will also be in a position to analyse substances of concern identified by medics."
It stated that its HSE-led surrender bin does not grant amnesty from arrest or prosecution for those found in possession of controlled drugs at Electric Picnic and that normal legislation and Garda enforcement plans apply.
The HSE scheme will be different to those run at various UK festivals in recent years that offer people the chance to have their illegal drugs tested to know what they contain before taking them.
The laboratory will be established onsite and if a substance of concern is identified, the HSE will issue information to those in attendance at Electric Picnic.
This is with the aim of reducing the consumption of these substances and possible acute emergencies.
The health service will also have harm reduction teams in the Electric Picnic at a designated tent and on outreach throughout campsites to talk to attendees.
HSE National Clinical Lead for Addiction Services Professor Eamon Keenan stated that the health service is currently "very concerned" about the emergence of new psychoactive substances and high potency substances that pose a threat to health.
"This project will provide us with vital information that we otherwise can’t access in real-time," he added.
"While this is a progression, the HSE messaging will remain clear, it is safer not to use drugs at all.
"For those who choose to, they should still follow the practical steps recommended by the HSE to reduce the harms.”
Keenan also said that the HSE will issue a series of health information on social media before and during the event.
"It is important to note that our results will only be representative of what is submitted and this will not guarantee the safety of drugs across the drug market," he added.
Meanwhile, Managing Director of Festival Republic Melvin Benn said the pilot is essentially Electric Picnic "being a good citizen".
"The law remains that drugs are illegal and that will remain so at Electric Picnic," he explained.
"But we are committed to doing everything we can to make people safe and this process adds to that safety in the knowledge that drugs exist in all aspects of society and we welcome the HSE’s proactiveness in addressing the issue.”
The health service said the initiative will be supported by the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána.
Electric Picnic will take place next month between 2 - 4 September.