Music festival season is upon us, hundreds of thousands of tickets have sold and people of all ages are packing their weekend bags, tents and supplies, ready for some of the best times.
At The Alcohol and Drug Service (ADS), we want memories of these festivals to be happy and would like to offer cautionary advice.
There’s no two-ways about it, recreational drugs are readily available at music festivals. MDMA, LSD, cocaine, cannabis and a whole range of other substances including; spice and nitrous oxide are available to both experienced users and first time triers.
We know some people will take drugs at festivals whatever we say so while we would still advocate avoiding illicit drugs altogether, we know that doesn’t work for everyone. We live in the real world and understand that people go through stages in their lives where they take risks and experiment. So, as uncomfortable as it is for some people, we offer advice which is based on the reality of what people actually do, not what we’d like them to do.
Critics might accuse us of encouraging drug use but putting it bluntly, it doesn’t matter how good our services are if someone is dead or seriously ill in hospital. So step one is: keep people alive and as well as possible because if they’re not, there is no step two.
Following that our advice is, if festival sites have drug testing facilities use them. This is the best and only way to know what the drugs you are taking are. If you know what you’re taking then there is advice you can follow designed to keep you as safe as possible. If you don’t know what you’re taking you really are rolling the dice. The same is true for the strength of a drug. If you can’t get it tested don’t assume it’s the same strength you’re used to. Leave a longer period between doses. If you’re in a group watch out for each other – if anyone feels unwell or disorientated go to the first aid tent and tell them what you think you’ve taken. They will help. These simple things apply to everyone no matter how experienced you are.
Taking drugs at festivals can leave individuals incredibly vulnerable. The loss of inhibitions can mean trusting someone you don’t know and ending up in a difficult or risky situation. If you’re lucky you might just lose your wallet or purse. Our much repeated mantra is, stick together and look after each other.
It’s not just the illegal drugs, many festivals have beer tents which are open throughout the entire festival. So if you are drinking alcohol, be careful. Many of the same bits of advice that apply with illegal drugs apply to alcohol. It is easy to find you’ve been drinking all day particularly if it’s been sunny and you might be thirsty. So as with drugs, leave periods between drinks (doses). In the case of alcohol you need to avoid dehydration so we would advise making sure you drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. At least alcohol should have the strength on the cask or bottle but take note of it. You may be used to drinking standard strength cider or beer at home but it is all too easy to end up supping much stronger scrumpy or ale than you’re used to. Mixing alcohol and drugs together can cause problems, especially when consuming for two or more days in a row. So please enjoy yourself but just remember the sun, drugs and alcohol can be a dangerous mix, it really depends on you and how you approach it.
If your friends or family are going to festivals, please share this information with them. It can help keep them safe so they can enjoy the festival.
Finally, remember, drug testing can literally save your life, or someone else’s – if noxious substances are detected, the safety team can inform other festival goers that a specific type of pill should be avoided.
Oh and of course take some wellies and waterproofs