Festival-goers take multiple drugs at the same time, according to new research
"Festival drug-related deaths are a growing public health concern."
Alcohol, MDMA powder/crystals, ecstasy pills and cocaine were the highest reported drugs consumed by Irish festival attendees, according to a new study.
The report, conducted by researchers at Trinity College Dublin's School of Medicine in a bid to promote harm reduction and enhance overall protection and well-being at festivals, found that nine out of 10 participants tended to take multiple drugs at the same time.
Four in 10 participants reported having had sex following the use of a drug at a festival. Of those, two-thirds declared that the sex was unprotected.
A total of 1,193 Irish festival-goers were surveyed during the 2019 festival season between June and October.
"Festival drug-related deaths are a growing public health concern," notes the introduction to the study.
"At present, there is limited evidence highlighting drug trends and harm-reduction practices among Irish festival attendees. One of the main health concerns for this cohort relates to the risks associated with high volumes of drugs being consumed as well as the combinations of substances used together.
"There are health risks associated with the use of party drugs such as cocaine, MDMA, and ecstasy, particularly for frequent users."
The research sought to comprehensively explore the evidence for drug-checking services as a harm reduction intervention. Drug-checking services enable the drug user to have their drugs chemically analysed, as well as providing information on the content of the samples.
Those who took part in the survey voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of engaging with drug-checking services including the use of amnesty bins – disposal areas that would allow people to safely get rid of drugs without being criminally charged.
"It is possible that a ‘back of house’ approach could be used, that is, using an amnesty bin within a drug service that could also inform festival goers of the content of the drugs, via communication structures outside," said a spokesperson for the Emerging Drugs Trends and Drug Checking Working Group.
"This might provide valuable insight into drug contents to inform drug alert mechanisms. If this ‘back-of-house’ approached worked, we might then be able to move to a full front-of-house approach at festivals.
"The overall aim is to protect health and wellbeing, and to minimise the harms caused by the use and misuse of drugs."
You can read the report in full at this link.