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Image: Shutterstock/Piotr Piatrouski

'These drugs are much more potent': HSE advises festival-goers who plan on taking drugs

The HSE launched a new campaign this week around drug-harm reduction in conjunction with a number of festivals including Body and Soul.
Jun 22nd 2019, 9:30 AM 35,369 79

A SENIOR HSE doctor has warned of the harmful effects associated with taking drugs at festivals as the HSE launches a campaign offering advice for drug-users. 

The campaign was launched this week in conjunction with a number of Irish festival promoters, including Body and Soul, which kicks off this weekend.

It aims to inform festival-goers before, and during festival events, of the dangers drug-taking presents both on an isolated basis, and when mixed with alcohol. 

Dr Eamon Keenan, the HSE’s national clinical lead in addiction services told, ”emergency medics have reported people presenting to medical services with physical and psychological problems” after taking drugs at festivals in recent years. 

“We’re trying to make sure people are getting this information before they go to festivals,” he said. 

“People aren’t aware of the extent of the problem with drug use – at festivals you might have someone who is a bit naive in relation to drugs – so we think it’s important there is harm reduction advice available. 

“There’s no point in just ignoring it. I can say ‘don’t take drugs’ and I do, but if you do [take them] then we’re saying here’s some harm reduction advice.”

Keenan’s comments come after a number of people were hospitalised last week after taking high-strength drugs at a festival in the UK.

“About two weeks at the Park Life festival in Manchester, five people were hospitalised and in intensive care in hospital following high strength ecstasy and MDMA,” he said. 

These drugs are much more potent than they have been.

“So we’re saying, if you are taking drugs, don’t take a full tablet to start with – take a quarter of a tablet – we’re saying, take a quarter and then a few hours later take another quarter and see how you go.”

The HSE campaign, details of which are online here, outlines a number of steps under headings including ‘leave the mixing to the DJ’ and ‘keep cool and stay hydrated’. 

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The national health service has also launched a research project with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) to see if people would use drug-testing facilities at music festivals. 

It will also investigate festival drug trends, health and sexual well-being, and preferred music genres.

Assistant professor in addiction studies at TCD, Dr Jo-Hanna Ivers said: “Music festivals are a massive part of Irish and European culture, and club drugs are a dominant part of the festival experience for many.

“Nevertheless, given the high turnover of new drugs and the environment that these substances are taken, the risk of overdose is high.”

“The current study is the first of its kind in an Irish context and one of few internationally. The study will provide key insights into attitudes towards use and need for harm reduction measures,” she added. 

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