In The Festival Harm Reduction Project series, we examine drug use at music festivals and clubs across the globe, and explore what artists, organizers, harm reduction groups, and concert-goers are doing to make nightlife safer.
Canadian music festival season is right around the corner. With these typically multi-day, outdoor events comes recreational drug use, which presents a number of shifting challenges to organizers. Should certain legal and illegal substances be banned outright? If not, will festival-goers be able to get their drugs tested for harmful adulterants? How many security personnel and paramedics should be on-site at music events, and where are they receiving their training?
Outreach groups, promoters, and venue owners have expanded the scope of their work in recent years to keep people safe at music events, offering drug testing, peer support, and even instructional workshops demonstrating how to administer the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. While these are steps in the right direction, there's still plenty of work to do when it comes to keeping people safe, as there's currently no national or provincial guidelines for addressing drug use at festivals.
At the same time, drug-related deaths at clubs and events keep happening, and Canada's ongoing opioid crisis—which claimed 922 lives in BC last year, and more than 340 in Alberta alone—has sparked a nationwide conversation around harm reduction. Despite recommendations from health officials, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently said there are no plans for the federal government to decriminalize opioid drugs, citing public safety concerns.
With the generous input of Canadian harm reduction groups ANKORS, GRIP Montreal, Karmik, and TRIP! Project, we've created an anonymous survey for festival-goers to share their drug experiences, and find out how much they know about and use harm reduction services (click here to fill out a mobile-friendly version). In the upcoming weeks, we'll share the collected information, and use it to help THUMP, VICE, Noisey, and TONIC shape our summer-long series looking at what organizers are doing to make their events safer, and how you (and those around you) can prepare yourself for any situation.