The Health Service Executive (HSE) is to roll out a pilot drug testing programme at this year’s Electric Picnic.
The anonymous drug testing trial is the first monitoring programme to provide real-time information on drug use at a festival.
It is part of efforts to improve emerging drug trend responses and to reduce drug-related harm in Ireland, according to the HSE.
The pilot programme will initially take place at Electric Picnic and be implemented as part of the HSE “Safer Nightlife” harm reduction campaign which was launched earlier this year.
The HSE is hoping to gain knowledge on drug market trends so they can improve harm reduction responses specific to nightlife settings.
People can choose to anonymously submit substances to a “surrender bin” so the HSE can identify and communicate if extra dangerous substances are in circulation.
The HSE will also be in a position to analyse substances of concern identified by medics.
Professor Eamon Keenan, HSE national clinical lead in addiction services, said, “I am pleased to launch this new project as part of our efforts to reduce drug-related harm in Ireland.
“In September 2021, we launched the report of the Emerging Drug Trends and Drug Checking Working Group which included a series of recommendations such as providing harm reduction and drug monitoring in festival settings.
“We are currently very concerned about the emergence of new psychoactive substances and high potency substances which pose a threat to health.
“This project will provide us with vital information that we otherwise can’t access in real time.
“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.”
Prof Keenan added: “We 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.”
A laboratory will be established on site and if a substance of concern is identified, the HSE will issue information to people at the event with an aim to reduce the consumption of these substances and possible acute emergencies.
The programme is supported by the Department of Justice and An Garda Siochana.
The HSE-led surrender bin does not grant amnesty from arrest or prosecution for those found in possession of controlled drugs at the event.
Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, said: “Essentially this is Electric Picnic being a good citizen.
“The law remains that drugs are illegal and that will remain so at Electric Picnic.
“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.”
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