On top of creating our very own fictitious escapist, fantasy world unlike any other; we have also been pushing an outspoken harm reduction and drugs education stance, first with the ketamine awareness campaign from 2014 then with our large scale harm reduction campaign from 2017.
Since 2017 we have been working alongside our local authority partners to implement the Multi-Agency Safety Testing (MAST) service, facilitated by The Loop, providing scientific drugs testing service, with a 15-minute one-to-one consultation on the substances found and the potential dangers of experimentation.
On the ground, this has been received incredibly well and widely acknowledged as highly successful, however, due to the service being in its infancy and not widely understood, there has been some confusion as to what Boomtown’s stance on drugs is with those in attendance and beyond.
For clarity; drugs are illegal and can be fatal. The law of the UK stands just as much within Boomtown as it does anywhere else in the country.
Why offer a drugs testing service?
We tried the ‘Zero Tolerance’ approach for many years, but, despite working very closely with the local police constabulary, our own security teams, expert drugs spotters, search dogs etc… drugs still got into the festival and we felt we needed an extra level of safeguarding for our public, rather than solely relying on the policing route.
In 2017, with the support of the local authorities we changed our drugs stance from ‘Zero Tolerance’ to the ‘Four P’s’ - (Prevent, Protect, Prepare, Pursue) which is now becoming a festival industry-wide approach to harm reduction. It treats drugs usage as more of a welfare issue than criminal. This also allowed our messaging to be more honest, open and informative.
Do everything we can to keep drugs out of the festival:
- Gate searches
- Passive & proactive drug dogs
- Spotters on gates
- Festival drug experts
- Ejection at the gate if in possession
- Significantly increased CCTV coverage of the gates and perimeter fences.
For more information on what our security are briefed to do head to our Safety page.
Provide education and support services to protect those planning on taking drugs
- Front of house drug testing from The Loop.
- Amnesty Zones at entry gates - for people to legally dispose of drugs without danger of conviction.
- Roaming campsite welfare
- Public campaign and messaging regarding harm reduction, and drugs awareness - PLEASE SEE HARM REDUCTION SECTION IN ‘RESPECT YOURSELF’ FOR FURTHER DETAILS
See drugs as a welfare issue
- Increased welfare and medical provision
- Campsite drug workers and an on-call mental health team
- Additional specialist medical resources
Processes to deter illegal drug supply and the open use of drugs
- Enhanced searching at gates all weekend
- Resources targeting suspected dealing
- Eviction as a minimum for anyone suspected of drug dealing
Knowledge is power
Please read below for information on the four areas we have highlighted as key points that many people should be fully aware of before experimenting with drugs;
1. The severe dangers of drug misuse, (including Ketamine)
2. Effects of polydrug use (including prescription drugs)
3. Increased strength of Ecstasy / MDMA
1. Be aware that drugs can and do kill (even if you don’t think it could ever happen to you…)
Always know what you are taking and the likely effects it will have on you, especially if mixed with other substances (SEE BELOW). Make sure you are with friends and know what each other are taking, where it came from and the key factor of all, pace yourself.
Respect yourself, your surroundings and most importantly, your body.
At recent events, we have again seen the rise in people being admitted to our medical and welfare with serious side effects from Ketamine misuse. Whilst it is not the only drug we see to cause harm, it is one that we feel needs to be kept in the spotlight as can be so damaging to individuals as well as to the greater festival experience.
Here are some of the highlighted risks involved with using Ketamine:
Not only does taking Ketamine disassociate you with the festival surroundings, rendering being at the event almost completely pointless for many using Ketamine, it also has some very serious and very real side effects;
- Ketamine is a very powerful anaesthetic that can cause serious harm. Taking Ketamine can be fatal, particularly if it is mixed with other drugs or alcohol.
- Ketamine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. It can make you confused, agitated, delirious and disconnected from reality.
- Because you don't feel pain properly when you've recently taken Ketamine, you can injure yourself and not know you've done it.
- Abdominal pain, sometimes called ‘K cramps’, have been reported by people who have taken ketamine for a long time.
- Ketamine can cause serious bladder problems, with the urgent and frequent need to pee. This can be very painful and the pee can be blood-stained. Although stopping using Ketamine can help, sometimes the damage can be so serious that the bladder needs surgical repair or even removal.
- The urinary tract, from the kidneys to the bladder, can also be affected and incontinence (uncontrolled peeing) may also develop.
- Evidence of liver damage due to regular, heavy Ketamine use is emerging. The liver has a range of important functions, such as cleaning your blood and removing toxic substances.
Misuse of prescription drugs:
Just because a drug has been prescribed by a doctor it does not mean it is safe for use in any other way then one instructed by the physician. The most common prescription drugs to be misused include sleeping tablets or tranquilisers (benzos), anabolic steroids, painkillers and treatments for mental health issues.
Benzos - Valium, Xanex, Tamazepam
The drug group benzodiazepine, (‘benzos’) are primarily misused to come down from other drugs such as ecstasy or speed (amphetamines). It is a highly dangerous combination as the tranquillisers can be ‘numbing’ and when taken with alcohol the combined depressant effects can easily cause a fatal overdose by inhibiting breathing or slowing down vital organs.
If you feel unwell, or even just a bit uneasy and need some support, please seek out one of the festival representatives, either from medics, welfare, steward or security and they will help you to a place of safety. Please don’t feel you will be judged or get into trouble, they are there to help you and keep you safe, that’s their main responsibility!
2. Increased strength of drugs on the market:
It is so important to know what you’re putting into your body. Due to the unregulated production of illegal substances, each and every pill, powder or liquid is likely to be different and therefore could have an entirely different effect.
Ecstasy deaths are approaching the highest they have ever been. In 2005, pills contained around 80MG of MDMA. Now, the average sits at around 150MG, but new pills popping up have tested upwards of 250MG.
A recent study has also suggested that women should be particularly careful when trying Ecstasy as they are more likely to end up in emergency rooms than men. One theory suggests the effects may be due to the way the drug interacts with the body’s chemistry and how oestrogen, the female hormone, impairs cells’ ability to release water, meaning that women are particularly at risk from the effects.
A lot of drugs have come on the market recently that are incredibly pure, which doesn't mean they are ‘safer’ or good for you... Always pace yourself, stay with friends, and do not mix substances.
The crush-dab-wait campaign from The Loop is a really helpful approach:
BBC 3 also recently released this short film called How Not To Die with some really useful advice and important information.
3. Dangers of polydrug (multiple drug) use:
Using more than one drug at a time is known as polydrug use. Poly use intensifies the effects of any individual drug and makes them more dangerous. For example, mixing stimulants, such as ecstasy and cocaine, can increase the high, but also the risk of heart attack. Combining substances can not only have fatal effects on the body, but can also affect the mind by severely depleting serotonin levels in the brain, which can spark issues such as depression and anxiety.
Mixing alcohol and other substances is probably the most common form of polydrug use, as many people don’t think of alcohol as a ‘drug’. Alcohol can however, have a big impact on the way many substances affect you. Some of the time this involves it enhancing the effects of the other drug, but with many substances, alcohol can create a dangerous, potentially fatal, chemical reaction.
The more drugs that are used simultaneously, the greater the risk is. Do not mix substances. Make sure you are fully aware of all the dangers and side effects that could be caused. ALWAYS make sure your friends are aware of what you are taking and that someone is with you at all times.
Alcohol & Cocaine
This combination results in the formation of an entirely new chemical in the body — cocaethylene. In other words, when cocaine is broken down in a body that is also intoxicated with alcohol, the long-lasting chemical cocaethylene forms instead of the usual cocaine products.
- Cocaethylene is associated with liver damage, seizures and immune system damage.
- The risk of immediate death is approximately 20 times higher from cocaethylene than cocaine.
- Tests show that levels of cocaine in the blood can increase as much as 30%. This increases the strain on the cardiovascular system.
- Increases in violent behaviour and suicidality have been reported when cocaine and alcohol are used together.
Alcohol & Ecstasy
Alcohol may moderate the high you get from Ecstasy, and you may not feel as strong an effect as usual. But then it is likely that you will feel much worse when you come down off these drugs.
- Both Ecstasy and alcohol cause dehydration which can increase one’s chances of heatstroke when dancing in a hot environment for hours
- There is a greater strain on a person’s liver and kidneys, which may lead to nausea and vomiting.
- Both drugs cause impairment of a person’s judgement. Risky and dangerous decisions and actions may result.
Alcohol & Other Stimulants
Alcohol abuse may be combined with Ritalin, Adderall, methamphetamine or amphetamine. Some diet pills, over the counter cold remedies and even strong energy drinks can also be dangerous.
- As with cocaine, these stimulants can obscure the sedating effects of alcohol, enabling a person to get dangerously drunk without fully realising it. The user may try to drive, which is dangerous to both yourself and others nearby.
- As with Ecstasy, overheating is more likely to occur which can lead to organ damage.
- A person abusing this combination may lose their inhibitions but be irritable and aggressive. Emotions may run out of control. The results can be disastrous.