HSE to create safe space for drug users at festivals amid 'worrying trends'

HSE to create safe space for drug users at festivals amid 'worrying trends'

Walking on Cars performing at Indiependence in  2018 in Mitchelstown, Cork. Indiependence is one of the festivals being targeted by the HSE for drug use this summer. Picture: Kieran Frost

HSE teams are targeting three music festivals this summer to spread harm reduction advice to drug users amid “very worrying trends” at the drugs in circulation.

The first event is the Life dance music festival in Westmeath this weekend, followed by Indiependence in Mitchelstown, Cork, in July and a third event, yet to be determined, later in the summer.

HSE bosses are particularly concerned at new synthetic stimulants or cathinones, which are being sold as ecstasy to unsuspecting users – and cannabis herb or edibles being laced with synthetic cannabinoids.

The synthetic cannabinoids have been found by Forensic Science Ireland in cannabis herb for the first time this year.

In addition to these new trends, the HSE remains very concerned at the high potency of ecstasy and cocaine in circulation.

“We had no festivals in two years, so we have people returning to festivals after that gap and people going to festivals for the first time,” said HSE addiction lead Dr Eamon Keenan. 

“There’s this pent up anticipation and excitement and we are concerned there will be adverse events from drug use.” 

HSE-trained volunteers will operate a tent and conduct outreach in the music arenas and campsites and will have a direct link with medics for emergencies.

Dr Keenan said local gardaí and festival organisers are working with them on the new initiative.

Nicki Killeen, HSE Volunteer Trainer, said: “Our new volunteer teams will offer non-judgemental and confidential support. They will operate between the festival community and medical teams to create a safe space for people who use drugs.” 

Dr Keenan said HSE plans to introduce limited pilot drug testing at festivals was being discussed by the Department of Health and Gardaí over “logistic and legal concerns” – but that he hadn’t ruled out having it in place for the third festival.


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