Attendees of Shambhala music festival last week had unknowingly purchased drugs that contained fentanyl, according to an onsite drug testing service.
ANKORS, an organization that's offered drug testing at the BC festival for years, has released just a portion of results from the thousands of drugs it tested. The findings indicate that the deadly opioid was found cut into MDMA, cocaine, ketamine, and MXE, a drug has similar dissociative effects to ketamine. Some of the drugs that contained fentanyl were bought at the festival.
While a full analysis of all the drugs tested at Shambhala will take months to complete, ANKORS is posting alarming findings in real time in order to warn festival-goers of the risks that are out there.
The group just posted 96 results, nine of which came back positive for fentanyl—one batch of what was meant to cocaine tested positive for 3-Methylfentanyl, also a dangerous opioid. A baggie of what was sold as ketamine came back positive for MXE and fentanyl.
"MXE and Fentanyl is a deadly combination in large doses. Respiratory depression, dissociation to be expected," reads the description posted by ANKORS.
While in the past, it has offered low-tech pill testing, this year ANKORS set up an advanced drug testing operation at the festival that included a RAMAN test, which uses UV light to detect the two major substances present; a fentanyl strip test; a colour test; and something called the "mass spectrometer" which can profile the different adulterants in a substance more accurately. About one in 20 people were able to use the mass spectrometer. The other tests give instant results.
Chloe Sage, prevention and education coordinator for ANKORS, told VICE all the fentanyl was detected using the fentanyl strip tests. She said she was surprised the opioid was detected in the drugs at Shambhala.
"I live in BC, fentanyl is everywhere and I've seen many people die. But the people I've seen die, most of them aren't in the stimulant festival scene."
She said almost everyone whose drugs tested positive for fentanyl disposed of them. She also said she was concerned about the ketamine results.
"The amount of ketamine that either wasn't ketamine or had other things in it was massive. There's either really crappy ketamine going around or it's not ketamine at all."
She said her hope is more festivals will start doing this type of testing and posting their results to serve as an alarm system for attendees. "We need to get this out there because people are going from this festival to that festival and it's probably some of the same stuff going around."
You can view the full list of findings on ANKORS' website.
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