Drug Safety

Drug Safety

Our Harm Reduction 

Raising awareness of drug safety throughout the year and implementing a series of harm reduction measures on site designed to safeguard our citizens has long been a priority for us and we are proud to be able to say we have participated and led the way in this safety drive. 

The Boomtown Harm Reduction Story here shows how we’ve used our festival and extraordinary community to introduce new harm reduction services and bring public safety and education to the forefront.

BOOMTOWN DRUGS POLICY

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 drug usage as more of a welfare issue than criminal. This also allowed our messaging to be more honest, open and informative.

Prevent
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 & Security page.

Protect
Provide education and support services to protect those planning on taking drugs

  • Amnesty Zones at entry gates - for people to legally dispose of drugs without danger of conviction. 
  • Roaming campsite welfare teams
  • Fully equipped Medical Centre
  • Welfare Centres 
  • On-call Mental Health response team

We utilise our back of house drug testing providers to identify harmful substances circulating at the festival and keep those in attendance informed with as much factual information as possible throughout the weekend via our social channels, festival app, on the various operational screens and information points across the festival.

The Loop
We provide a robust and extensive medical and welfare support onsite and as many are aware for the past 2 years we have been working alongside The Loop to provide front of house drugs safety service. In 2019 we were deeply saddened to announce that they were no longer able to provide the drugs safety testing service at the festival. We are currently exploring the options for 2021 and we will have an update with more information over the coming months.

Public campaign and messaging regarding harm reduction, and drugs awareness - PLEASE SEE HARM REDUCTION SECTION IN ‘RESPECT YOURSELF’ FOR FURTHER DETAILS

Prepare
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

Pursue
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; 

  • Increased strength of drugs especially Ecstasy.
  • The severe dangers of drug misuse (including prescription drugs) 
  • Effects of polydrug use 

1. 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 350MG. Which is nearly x4 the strength. Stronger IS NOT better. It’s more lethal. ALWAYS start slow and allow your body to feel the effects. 

A lot of drugs have come on the market 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 released this short film called How Not To Die with some really useful advice and important information. 

3. 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 dissociative 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 urination) 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, Xanax, 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!

4. 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.

Dangers:

  • 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.

Dangers:

  • 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.

Dangers:

  • 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.

Further information:

  1. http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/check-the-facts/health...
  2. https://www.acast.com/saywhytodrugs/
  3. http://www.themix.org.uk/drink-and-drugs/drugs-and…
  4.  EMCDDA 2015 REPORT http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/edr2015  report 
  5. https://www.alcohol.org/mixing-with/xanax/