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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Shutterstock/Dirk Hudson
# Festival
HSE screening at Electric Picnic found drugs not detected in Ireland before
The programme’s 46 samples also contained dangerously strong MDMA

THE HSE ISSUED two risk communications relating to high strength MDMA at Electric Picnic, despite receiving a “relatively small number of samples” during the three day festival.

The monitoring programme at the early September festival was the first of its kind in this country and allowed festival-goers to receive real-time information about the composition of their drugs

The drugs were obtained by way of individuals anonymously submitting substances to a “surrender bin” in a designated tent operated by the HSE. 

But unlike many other festival drug-testing programmes, festival-goers did not get their drugs back after they had been tested, which may be the reason that 46 samples were submitted.

HSE National Clinical Lead of addiction services, Professor Eamon Keenan, said: “While this report represents a relatively small number of samples numerically, we must recognise the importance of this pilot project and our findings.”

“The HSE accessed substances from people who use drugs to conduct real-time analysis for the purpose of sharing risk communications at a festival. As a result, the HSE were able to quickly share accurate information with the public to encourage harm reduction discussions both in person and online over the course of the event.

“We obtained quantitative estimates of MDMA being used in Ireland which we have never had access to before.”

The screening found that high strength MDMA products are also appearing in Ireland similar to the rest of Europe, which significantly increases the risks for people. 

Five MDMA powders were confirmed as almost pure MDMA which creates harm reduction challenges.

A major health risk is introduced when people are unsure of how much of a substance they are taking.

Six identical-looking MDMA pills were found to contain a wide range of contents from 36mg of MDMA to 235mg of MDMA.

Three new psychoactive substances identified not previously detected in Ireland were also found(3-CMC, 5-MAPB, 4-HO-MiPT) and a risk communication relatingto 3-CMC was issued to festival-goers, warning them of the significant mental health issues the drug can cause.

The majority of the 46 drug samples left at HSE surrender bins were tested and identified on-site while eight require further analysis in the HSE’s National Drug Treatment Centre.

The content of four samples remain unconfirmed.

The scheme at Stradbally, Co Laois led to confusion initially when Gardaí had to clarify that there would be no exemptions made to normal drug possession laws at the festival for people using the surrender bins.

“The law hasn’t changed,” Detective Superintendent McCormack told the Irish Examiner. “There is no change in legislation to facilitate the possession of illegal or controlled drugs.” 

“Some agencies have been using the word ‘amnesty’. There is no amnesty bin. They are surrender bins.” 

There is no amnesty or exemption from the law, including in cases where people tell gardaí they are going to the medical tent to hand over their drugs.

“There is no defence, ‘I’m on my way to the tent’,” he said. “There is no part of the ground that says it’s OK to hold illegal drugs. If you have illegal drugs in your possession and you’re stopped and searched, and you’re found in possession, then consideration has to be given to prosecution.” 

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