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Tagged In:  Drugs

It’s only been a couple of weeks since the Secret Garden Party festival in Cambridgeshire became the first UK event of any kind to offer individuals the chance to have their drugs tested. 

In the first day and a half, over 80 substances of concern were tested and results delivered as part of a package of health and safety advice. A quarter of substances submitted for analysis were destroyed (at the visitor’s request), after they realised what was in the substance. 

Very high strength ecstasy pills were found to be in circulation, as well as multiple samples that misrepresented, for example anti-malaria tablets sold as ketamine, and ammonium sulphate sold as MDMA.  

We catch up with those behind the introduction of the pragmatic ‘harm reduction’ approach, including representatives from local public health authorities and The Loop

Professor Fiona Measham, co-founder and director of The Loop organisation providing the testing and harm reduction service said: 

“The Loop has been conducting forensic testing at events for a number of years, but before now, we’ve only tested drugs seized by police, dropped in amnesty bins or provided by paramedics as a result of a medical incident. In the past we have been able to use that testing information to inform on site services and for generalised safety alerts. At the Secret Garden Party we took a big step forward because for the first time we’ve been able to offer the testing service to individual users as part of a tailored advice and information package provided by a team of experienced drugs workers. 

“This can help people make informed choices, raising awareness of particularly dangerous substances in circulation and reducing the chance of drug-related problems occurring. It’s an important innovation that we know can reduce risks and potentially save lives. Other countries in Europe have had testing services like this at events for years – the UK is just catching up, and we are pleased to be part of that evolutionary process”

Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst for Transform Drug Policy Foundation added: 

“We all want to keep festival goers safe, so Transform congratulates the Secret Garden Party, police and council officers for supporting a pragmatic, health-based approach to drug use.  For many young people ‘Just say no’ simply doesn’t work, so ‘just say know’ is vital to help protect them. All drug use involves risks, but these are magnified by criminalisation, which gifts the market to criminals and unregulated dealers. Until the laws are reformed, testing and encouraging safer drug use is the least we can do. We hope this groundbreaking service becomes the norm for all such events. It is now up to others to follow, to protect the health and safety of their customers. In truth it would be negligent for them not to. ”  

Anne Marie Cockburn, representing ‘Anyone’s Child’: Families for safer drug control, added:

“When I found out the Secret Garden Festival would include drug testing as part of their welfare services I felt relieved that common sense was finally prevailing. My only wish is that this kind of service had existed before I, and other members of the Anyone's Child Project, had lost our children to accidental drug overdoses.” 

*All images used in this article are the property of Steve Rolles from Transform Drug Policy Foundation

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