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Music Festival Drug Safety Challenges in 2023.

Andy Robertson

The use of narcotics and attending music festivals have forever been synonymous with each other. This presents festival organisers with challenges in managing festival-goer safety and they must strike a balance between security and control of illegal substances coming on-site against the provision of support and medical facilities to handle any health issues.

A survey* in 2022 reveals that roughly 84% of festival-goers intend to take drugs when attending a music festival. This presents safety issues for organisers who must do everything they can to prevent numerous issues that can arise from illegal narcotic usage during their event. What reasonable steps can organisers take to minimise medical issues, injuries, hospitalisation or encounters with the police for example.

Advice and Support. 
Every festival organiser will issue warnings on their website and social media channels reminding tickets buyers that illegal narcotics are not allowed on-site and this is often stipulated in the terms and conditions of sale when purchasing a ticket. Conversely given the inevitability of drug use organisers need to give advice too particularly regarding hydration and symptoms to watch for amongst fellow festival-goers which indicate serious medical conditions that may require immediate attention. The same warnings and advice should also be visibly posted on-site as a reminder to all festival-goers.

Security and control. 
Any security staff and volunteers managing entrance gates should be briefed on how to search festival-goers and what to look for when identifying narcotics. In some instances, the local police may also be present and sniffer dogs are used at some events. Signage about the confiscation of any drugs found should be clearly visible at every entrance with an option for disposal in an amnesty bin should anyone decide to ditch their stash prior to any search. No matter how thorough searches are it is inevitable that not all drugs will be found.

Volunteer Organisation Testing Services. 
Charitable groups like The Loop have offered a drug testing service at festivals since 2016 and are present at many events in the UK. The service offered usually entails a laboratory style test of any substance that a festival-goer intends to take. The tests focus on identifying substances of concern that may put users at greater level of risk and that may already be causing people to seek medical attention. The Loop do not return any substances after testing as they consider no substance as safe to use, this is to ensure they stay legally compliant. Unfortunately, research suggests only 44% of drug users felt the need to get drugs tested.

Medical Facilities. 
Given that 80% of drug users at music festivals have experienced a negative consequence including medical issues it is essential that on-site medical facilities have the capacity and knowledge to deal with the usual consequences. This could range from injuries related to trips and falls, heat stroke, dehydration and in extreme cases overdose induced comas. Experienced medical personnel need to make rapid decisions in serious cases should an evacuation to a local hospital be required.

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering. 

*Research data courtesy of Innerbody Research form April 2022.
Photo by MART PRODUCTION via Pexel

Andy Robertson
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