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safer nightlife

A HSE drug analysis tent will be in operation at this year's Electric Picnic

It’s part of the HSE ‘Safer Nightlife’ harm reduction campaign.

THE HSE IS set to implement a pilot drug analysis programme at the upcoming Electric Picnic festival. 

The monitoring programme is the first of its kind in this country and comes following a recommendation made by an expert working group set up as part of the National Drugs Strategy. 

The pilot programme at the festival is set to provide “real-time information” about the composition of drugs at the festival, with the HSE saying it can then “identify and communicate if extra dangerous substances are in circulation”. 

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

The system is what’s described by the working group as a ‘back of house’ system because the drugs are not obtained specifically from individuals but through the anonymous bin. 

A ‘front of house’ system analyses substances obtained directly from the person who submits them, with results delivered in real-time while the person waits. This system is in operation in other European countries. 

The working group says, that should the evaluation of this pilot ‘back of house’ system prove positive, a comprehensive ‘front of house’ approach should be considered.


HSE teams ons-site will also be in a position to analyse substances of concern identified by medics.

A laboratory will be established onsite to test drugs and, if a substance of concern is identified, the HSE will issue information to the public in attendance with an aim to reduce the consumption of these substances and possible acute emergencies.

The system is what’s described as a by the working group as a ‘back of house’ syst

A ‘front of house’ system would provide people who submit drugs with the unique set of results for the drugs they submitted. 

This programme is supported by the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána but the HSE has said that gardaí will be undertaking their usual enforcement plans at the festival and that the “surrender bin” does not “grant amnesty” to those found in possession of controlled drugs. 

In a statement today, the HSE’s clinical lead in addiction services Prof. Eamon Keenan said that it is still the HSE’s position that it is “safer not to use drugs at all”. 

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. 

Speaking to The Journal at the end of 2020,  Minister for State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan had pledged that it would “absolutely” be possible for drug analysis at music festivals to be ready when summer festivals return after the Covid emergency. 

Speaking today, he said: “We have a duty of care to protect the health and safety of the people who may use drugs at festivals and in the night time economy.

“It is my priority as Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy to strengthen harm reduction responses to high-risk drug use associated with the night-time economy and festivals. Drug monitoring is an important tool in this regard. I want to acknowledge the cooperation of all stakeholders in putting this initiative in place.”

Melvin Benn, managing director of Electric Picnic organiser Festival Republic, said that “drugs exist in all aspects of society” and that the new programme acknowledges this.

“Essentially this is Electric Picnic being a good citizen. The law remains that drugs are illegal and that will remain so at Electric Picnic,” he said.

“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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