Festival culture encourages thousands of people to dabble in illegal substances, often for the first time. An inevitable experience, senators, and harm-reduction services are calling on the government to reduce the risk of harm associated with drug taking.
The Ana Liffey Drug Project will be taking part in the Electric Picnic festivities, offering festival-goers a judgment-free space to advise or give information on illegal drugs. Last year mostly males in their late teens and early twenties availed of the service after ingesting drugs like MDMA, ketamine, and LSD.
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Youth Affairs, the Arts, and LGBT rights Senator Fintan Warfield is calling for harm-reduction services like Ana Liffey to be able to provide drug safety testing before festival-goers consider using the drug.
The provision of educational materials on drugs and alcohol, as well as one-to-one advice and referrals are an important part of a health-led response to drug and alcohol use - but we can do more. Harm-reduction services at festivals should be allowed to include confidential drug safety testing facilities for festival goers who consider using drugs.
The Senator suggests that services can test the drug for impurities with a sample size of the users' drug. The sample size can be destroyed after being tested. Sinn Féin believe that the success of harm-reduction initiatives abroad that offer confidential drug safety testing at music festivals confirm the need for similar initiatives at Irish music festivals.
Overdoses and drug poisoning are common occurrences when drugs are ingested which have resulted in deaths in the past so combating the purity of the drug means users will be more aware of what they're ingesting.
Senator Warfield acknowledges that we cannot ignore the inevitable and plans to raise the issue with the Department of Justice and Catherine Bryne, the Minister responsible for Ireland's National Drugs Strategy, when the Seanad assembles in September.
Warfield stresses that the move would not be to promote drug use but to take pro-active measures to combat the realities of life. Changes to current policy would save lives and reduce health emergencies at major festivals across the country.