Drug use at music festivals – if you are going to use, here’s how to stay safer

Island Health is urging people to be vigilant if they are going to consume alcohol or other drugs at festivals this summer. Many substances, such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, alprazolam (Xanax) and methamphetamines, have been contaminated by fentanyl or other toxic additives, increasing the possibility of an overdose.

The safest way to prevent an overdose is to avoid substances completely.  If you do consume substances, including alcohol, stay safer by following these steps:

  • Locate the harm reduction and first aid tents as soon as you arrive on site
  • Ask if drug checking services are available
  • Take one substance at a time -- don’t mix
  • Use with friends and tell them what you have taken, or think you have taken
  • Know the signs of fentanyl/opioid overdose
    • Slow or no breathing
    • Blue lips and fingertips
    • Unresponsive to noise, name or pain
    • Gurgling or snoring sounds
    • Pinpoint pupils or clammy skin
  • Know how to respond
    • Call 9-1-1 and festival first-aid immediately
    • Clear and open airway
    • Provide rescue breaths
    • Carry a naloxone kit and know how to use it
  • If you are at the scene of an overdose and you or someone else calls 911 to get medical assistance, you are not to be charged with simple possession (possession for your own personal use) of an illegal substance. The Good Samaritan Act also protects you from being charged for breach of probation or parole relating to simple drug possession.

If you are going to use, follow these tips to reduce the chance of experiencing an overdose:          

  • Don't use alone
  • Start with a small amount
  • Mixing substances, including alcohol, increases risk of overdose
  • Use where help is easily available (e.g., at a harm reduction tent, around other people)
  • Make a plan/know how to respond in case of an overdose

Learn more at https://www.stopoverdose.gov.bc.ca/get-informed  

Island Health is partnering with local harm reduction agencies to prevent, recognize, and respond to overdoses at festivals. We also encourage festival organizers to share tips about making safer choices.

For more information on overdose prevention, visit: islandhealth.ca/overdose

Central/North Island media inquiries
Dominic Abassi
Email: Dominic.abassi@islandhealth.ca 

South Island media inquiries:
Cheryl Bloxham
Phone: 250-370-8878
Email: Cheryl.bloxham@islandhealth.ca