HSE launches festival drug harm reduction campaign 2022

The HSE is, today (Wednesday 25th May 2022), launching a new drug harm-reduction campaign aimed at people attending Irish music festivals. This new campaign offers practical harm-reduction information, as well as advice on how to reduce the risks associated with drug use.

Prof Eamon Keenan, HSE’s National Clinical Lead-Addiction Services, comments: “As we approach the 2022 festival season it is important that we keep up to date in relation to Drug Trends across Europe. Although we have limited access to drug market monitoring In Ireland we are aware of the emergence of some very worrying trends across Europe.

“As well as high strength drugs appearing, as seen recently in the UK, we are currently concerned about the possibility of new psychoactive substances being mis-sold as MDMA pills or crystal, cocaine and cannabis. New drugs are continuing to emerge and we must be aware of the risks they pose.

“Our advice remains that it’s safer not to use at all, however if you do, this summer festival season it’s important to ‘start very low and go slow' to reduce your risk of coming to harm.”

Nicki Killeen, Volunteer Trainer and Emerging Drug Trends Project Manager, HSE says: “Our festival volunteers will offer advice at events about drugs. We will work with some event organisers and medical teams to help reduce harms and keep people safe.  Our new volunteer teams will offer non-judgmental and confidential support. They will operate between the festival community and medical teams to create a safe space for people who use drugs.

“The teams will be at an information tent, as well as through outreach teams in campsites and music arenas. It is important that people don’t delay getting medical help at events. Sometimes overconsumption could start as a headache or muscle pain which people may not be aware of. Our new booklets will provide people who use drugs with information about drug emergencies, trends and practical steps to reduce the harms.”

 How you can stay safe at festivals this summer:

  • Tell your friends if you decide to use drugs at the festival. Try to have one friend who doesn’t use and be with people you trust.
  • Be in the know before you go: See the new HSE festival information on the latest trends
  • Plan to take less. Your tolerance may have changed if you stopped using drugs for a while during COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Start low and go slow, take a small test dose. Pace yourself by taking a small amount and leaving time between use can help you identify how you are reacting to the substance.
  • Leave the mixing to the DJ: Avoid mixing drugs, including alcohol and prescription medication. This can increase your risk of becoming unwell or experiencing a drug emergency. MDMA could interact negatively with some medications such as antidepressants.
  • Keep cool and stay hydrated: Sip water but don’t drink over a pint an hour as drinking too much water can be dangerous. Take breaks from dancing and give yourself time to cool down.
  • Medics are your mates: Don’t be afraid to get help if you or a friend becomes unwell or feels suicidal after using drugs. Know the location of the medical tent at events and what you would do in case of an emergency. Be honest with medics about what was taken, they are there to help. 

The HSE is partnering with a small number of festivals this year to put in place harm reduction programmes onsite. Teams of HSE trained volunteers will available to talk about drug trends and harm-reduction practices with attendees, while also supporting people in cases of drug emergencies. The aim of these teams is to work as part of wider health and safety plans at events. We want to engage with festival-goers to educate them on drug risks. Our goal is to educate people on how to minimise harms to their health, including overdose prevention. This new team of volunteers includes people working in existing harm reduction services, as well as peers from the nightlife community.

With hundreds of thousands attending festivals across Ireland this summer, the HSE wants people to stay safe. The message is clear; it is always safer not to use drugs at all. But we need to acknowledge that festivals can be risk-taking settings where people may try drugs for the first time or try new types of drugs.

This harm-reduction campaign aims to help educate people who use drugs at events so they can make informed decisions. For more information visit http://www.drugs.ie/festivals or follow #IfYouGoGoSlow on social media.


Last updated on: 25 / 05 / 2022