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Drug Testing

97 drug samples surrendered for testing at Life Festival

The testing initiative aims to reduce drug-related harm at festivals.

SOME 97 DRUG samples were surrendered for testing at the three-day Life festival which took place last weekend, the HSE has said.

The testing initiative follows a pilot last year at Electric Picnic. It allows festival goers to anonymously submit substances to a “surrender bin” in a designated tent operated by the HSE.

The HSE said today that of the samples tested, 42 were MDMA, 21 were ketamine, 17 were cocaine and nine were benzocaine.

One sample was ‘3-CMC’, sold as blow cocaine, and one was a product sold as ‘tuci’, which is subject to further analysis.

The system is described as “back of house” 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.

HSE risk communications were published on social media following the drugs analysis.

Professor Eamon Keenan, the HSE’s national clinical lead for addiction services said drug testing enables the HSE to identify substances of concern that are in circulation, and communicate this in a timely manner.

“It is part of a comprehensive drug monitoring programme that the HSE Addiction Services are progressing,” he said.

Nicki Killeen, the HSE’s project manager for emerging drug trends, said feedback for the testing setup was positive.

“We wanted to ensure that the tent was an environment where people felt safe and respected. While it is hard to quantify this work, we can say we were extremely busy for the duration of the event and received a positive reaction from attendees.

“Over 1,000 re-usable water bottles with harm reduction information on hydration, 1,000 lip balms and 300 re-usable tote bags with messaging were provided to attendees.

“The preliminary analytical results provide us with further insights into changing drug landscape in Ireland. We issued three alerts in relation to high strength ketamine, MDMA and cocaine in circulation.

“The MDMA we tested ranged from 50mg to 246mg in products showing the diversity of MDMA available on the Irish market. This confirms that the public can’t be sure of the purity and how they will react.

“We also had a number of submissions to the tent from festival goers whose friends became unwell. This meant we could apply analytical techniques to examine what substances may have led to these cases, providing real-time information for medics and those impacted.”

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