Each year, thousands upon thousands of revellers put on their wellies and brave the great British weather in the name of festivals. A tragic aspect of this summer tradition is that, each year, headlines report yet more tales of drug related deaths. In the past two years, 11 young people have died at festivals. We all know that the most effective risk reduction of drug taking is not taking drugs at all – however, people do, and the government’s current policy of abstinence is costing lives.
When it’s common knowledge that illicit substances and festivals go hand in hand, precautions should be taken to keep people safe. There are no legal requirements to provide any more than basic welfare provisions at festivals. Often, there is barely more than a jug of water, somewhere to lie down and a few paramedics onsite.
To fill the vacuum that the government has created, charities like The Loop have been granted access to test drug samples at various festival sites across the UK, without fear of arrest for those who provide them. Revellers can provide a small sample of their gear, have it tested in onsite labs, then receive information about the drug’s content, potency and effects before the sample is destroyed. The Loop’s presence has proven to significantly decrease the chance of drug related deaths and hospital admissions, making police happy, paramedics happy and, most importantly, keeping people safe. Now MPs are calling for this service to be a compulsory requirement at festivals.
The Loop say that ten percent of all substances tested at Love Saves the Day festival were not what the user thought it was, and issued warnings over N-ethyl-pentylone being sold as crystal MDMA at Parklife festival, which causes temporary psychosis, severe anxiousness and keeps users awake for 72 hours. Many tests found that other samples were cut with concrete, boric acid and a plethora of unpleasant substances, and revelations such as these are vastly important in allowing festival-goers to make informed decisions about what they choose to take.
Despite the The Loop being praised by festival organisers, emergency services and MPs alike, they are still fighting a great political battle in order to be accepted, with many arguing their work makes drug use seem more acceptable. Whether you choose to bury your head in the sand and argue that no one in their right mind should use drugs, or accept that people of all walks of life choose to take drugs at festivals, you must come to terms with the fact that charities like The Loop are providing a harm reduction service that saves lives. But this work cannot be feasibly carried out by charities alone.
With the number of drug related deaths still soaring, it’s time to call upon our government to change their policy of abstinence towards drugs and make onsite drug testing a legal requirement at all festivals across the UK. This needs to be done before the next headline comes out, or they’ll have blood on their hands.