Press release

HSE back at Electric Picnic 2023 to provide harm reduction services

Published: 30 August 2023

Updated: 29 January 2024

  1. 70 HSE-trained volunteers
  2. Five surrender bins
  3. tents at three locations
  4. On site lab for drug checking and real-time results

Continuing its partnership with Electric Picnic Festival (1st to 3rd September 2023), HSE’s Safer Nightlife Programme is expanding its service to include tents and outreach teams at three locations where the public can come for information, support and surrender drugs for ‘back of house’ for on-site drug checking.

Minister Naughton, Minister for Public Health, Well-being and the National Drug Strategy said: 

“The programme is an excellent example of interagency cooperation between the HSE, An Garda Siochana and festival organisers to reduce the harm from drugs and ultimately to save lives.

As Minister, I would encourage the many people attending the festival to be wary of the dangers of using drugs, to engage with the HSE staff and volunteers for information and support about drug use, and to look out for updates about drug trends of concern on the big screens and on the Electric Picnic app.”

Speaking about this year’s programme at Electric Picnic, Prof Eamon Keenan, HSE National Clinical Lead, Addiction Services, explained:

“This year we are expanding our service at Electric Picnic with the aim of increasing our direct contact with festival attendees. We will provide a total of 30 hours of harm reduction support onsite delivered by our trained volunteers across three different locations at the event. In addition, this year we will have a total of five drug surrender bins in accessible safe locations where people can deposit drugs for analysis.

This analysis will be conducted in our dedicated ‘back of house’ HSE National Drug Treatment Centre laboratory on site.

We are working closely with Electric Picnic to ensure that any HSE messages reach our target audience throughout the weekend should we find drug trends of concern. The aim is to ensure that messages to reduce harm are communicated effectively if concerns are identified.

This programme is an excellent example of a health-led response to drugs whereby the HSE, Gardai and festival organisers collaborate to ensure that a safe space is provided for people who use drugs at events to surrender drugs.

The Safer Nightlife campaign has already been delivered at both Life and Body and Soul Festivals this summer where harm reduction teams and ‘back of house’ drug checking has been provided to analyse drugs on-site.

This work has led to the HSE issuing three risk communications relating to high strength, ketamine, cocaine and MDMA, as well as the HSE identifying three drugs which have never been detected before in Ireland.

I am delighted to see the continuation of the HSE’s Safer Nightlife programme in 2023, and the increased presence at this year’s Electric Picnic Music and Arts Festival. Harm reduction measures, such as these, are an excellent example of a public health approach to drug use, and further our Programme for Government commitment to increase drug monitoring at festivals.”

Speaking about drug trends of concern, Nicki Killeen HSE Emerging Drug Trends Project Manager, outlined: 

“We would urge festival goers to use our surrender bins. Should anyone have concern about using the service, they can chat with me or our team members in one of the tents. The more drug samples we receive and analyse, the more clearly we understand the Irish drug market.

So far this summer we have had an extremely positive response from festival attendees and have analysed 133 drug samples. These samples have provided us with information we otherwise would not have in Ireland.

From this we know that the substances at the moment could be high strength which increases the risks of a person accidently taking too much for their bodies to handle which could cause a drug emergency. MDMA pills have varied in strength with different pills containing from 71mg to 246mg of MDMA.

This means that you could experience a different reaction each time you take a pill so if people choose to use drugs, they need to consider harm reduction advice. In addition, powders can vary in potency and content and this means it is harder to accurately measure each time they are consumed particularly in festival settings. These are areas that we can discuss with people at the festivals.

At three events over the last two years, the HSE has identified seven drugs which have not yet been identified in Ireland before. Our lab analysis has provided valuable information on the potency levels of drugs and new drug trends such as pink powder being sold as Tuci**. While it is safer not to use drugs at all, the HSE would encourage people to support the project to help them get a better understanding of the Irish drug market to notify the public of drug trends of concern.”

The HSE teams can be found in the Main Arena, in the Jimmy Hendrix Campsite and in the Janus Joplin Campsite from Friday 12am to 9pm and Saturday and Sunday 11am to 9pm. Updates will be shared on X (Twitter) and Instagram @drugsdotie.

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