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'Medics are your mates': HSE launches harm-reduction campaign for drug users at music festivals

The campaign also urges festival-goers to ‘leave the mixing to the DJs’.

THE HSE HAS launched a campaign of practical harm-reduction information for people who use drugs at music festivals, as well as advice on how to reduce the risks associated with drug use.

The campaign will partner with several Irish festivals such as Life Festival and Indiependence by offering harm reduction programmes onsite run by HSE volunteers.

These volunteers will talk about drug trends and harm-reduction practices with attendees, while also supporting people in cases of drug emergencies.

Teams will be at information tents, while outreach teams will also offer advice to drug users in campsites and music arenas.

New booklets will also provide information to people who use drugs about drug emergencies, trends and practical steps to reduce the harms.

“Our new volunteer teams will offer non-judgmental and confidential support,” said Nicki Killeen, volunteer trainer and Emerging Drug Trends project manager with the HSE.

“They will operate between the festival community and medical teams to create a safe space for people who use drugs.”

She added that it is important that people who use drugs don’t delay getting medical help at events.

“Sometimes overconsumption could start as a headache or muscle pain which people may not be aware of,” Killeen said.

The campaign is also urging festival attendees to ‘Be in the know before you go’ with regard to the most recent trends in drugs.

Professor Eamon Keenan, of the HSE’s national clinical lead-addiction services, warned that “very worrying trends across Europe” have recently been observed by drug monitoring services.

“As well as high strength drugs appearing, as seen recently in the UK, we are currently concerned about the possibility of new psychoactive substances being mis-sold as MDMA [ecstasy] pills or crystal, cocaine and cannabis. New drugs are continuing to emerge and we must be aware of the risks they pose,” he said.

“Our advice remains that it’s safer not to use at all, however if you do, this summer festival season it’s important to ‘start very low and go slow’ to reduce your risk of coming to harm.”

The HSE, in association with awareness service, has warned festival-goers that MDMA is now 2-3 times more potent than it was ten years ago and that the strength of MDMA pills is increasing, meaning that many who take the drug could accidentally consume more than they intended.

Attendees are also advised that ‘medics are your mates’, and that people should be aware of the location of the medical tent at events and should be honest with medics about what drugs they’ve used.

Another slogan reads ‘leave the mixing to the DJs’, in response to a survey from the HSE which found that 86% of respondents mixed drugs at festivals, a minimum of 3 and maximum of 8 substances were used per occasion. 

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