As everyone's favourite Gathering-of-the-Juggalos-but-for-guys-who-wear-Airwalks-and-do-ketamine Boomtown festival is right around the corner, it's important to remind ourselves that, while drugs are totally kewl and great, they can be extremely uncool and fucked up. As part of our Safe Sesh series, in which why try our best to stop you all from killing yourselves at clubs and in fields, we spoke to The Loop, who conduct drug testing at Britain's festivals so you know how much concrete is in your gear.
We caught up with Fiona Measham, professor of criminology at Durham University and will be at Boomtown testing your pills for nightmares.
VICE: Hi Fiona. How common is it that people don't get what they paid for when buying drugs.
Fiona: What we're generally finding is about 9 in 10 people that come to us with a substance they were expecting – it is what they think it is, and about 1 in 10 is not what they expected. I think that's quite good odds really, maybe a bit higher than is generally expected in terms of getting what they wanted. Also most of the time people are bringing us substances that they think are of some concern, so we might even expect it to be higher than 1 in 10. You could see that as reassuring. The important thing for them is about purity issues, which is really relevant now in relation to the increase in drug-related deaths. The death rate from ecstasy has gone up from 24 to 32, which is a 33 per cent increase.
"At Kendal Calling there were people bringing a blue pill to us with the Anonymous mask on, which contained a substance called pentylone, and after taking it complaining that they weren't feeling very well, that they felt paranoid, agitate, couldn't sleep."
So what's inside these shonky drugs?
Well it could be a case of it just being filler – a blank pill, for example, something inert. It could be that it's a different type of drug that they don't want. Some people have been mis-sold ketamine as cocaine because it's half the price. Other drugs contain things like boric acid, household cleaner and pesticides being sold as cocaine, and in some police seizures they're seeing that three per cent of the cocaine found contains boric acid.
At Kendal Calling there were people bringing a blue pill to us with the Anonymous mask on, which contained a substance called pentylone, and after taking it complaining that they weren't feeling very well, that they felt paranoid, agitate, couldn't sleep. They went with the paramedics and the police managed to seize the rest of the batch from the dealer, and they knew there was a substantial number circulating on site.
Would you recommend that if people are sold dodgy drugs that they shop the dealer in to the police?
Absolutely, yeah. Our primary aim is to reduce drug related harm on site, and if somebody is mis-selling pentylone as MDMA, and it's causing problems, we would that would be addressed. The dealers themselves probably don't know what they contain, it'll most likely be someone further up the chain. The pills were actually rough pressed too. At the moment the pills coming out of the Netherlands are so sharply pressed and such high quality that when you see a rough pressing it's quite noticeable. So we let the paramedics and police know about that, we sent out a tweet which was then picked up and retweeted by the police and by the festival themselves to get maximum coverage. It was a great example of everyone working together on site. Sometimes people think in some way we're working against the police and it's just not true and we all have the same aim. It's not a trick, we're not trying to arrest users.
Can you die from pentylone pills?
You'd have to have a lot. The real risk is that people are going to have a very unpleasant time, being agitated and paranoid for around 36 hours. It's the different between having cocaine and methamphetamine. Cocaine will give the stimulant effect for an hour or two, whereas methamphetamine people might have a two-day bender. The other concern is that it has a very mild euphoric effect, and what will happen, same with PMA, people will re-dose because they think that the MDMA is not very strong. By the time it's had an effect they'll realise they've had a huge amount of pentylone. Even after they were administered with intravenous sedatives like diazepam they still had high blood pressure and their pulse hadn't gone down. They're very long lasting.
Sounds horrid. Stay safe everyone!
The Loop will be operating at the Downtown part of Boomtown festival. Go and get your drugs checked!
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