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New study finds drug testing sites make festivals safer

A survey analysed 250,000 festival attendees, examining the impacts of drug-checking provisions. It found that drug use did not go up, but instead festivals were safer overall.

A new study by The Loop and Liverpool University suggests that drug testing facilities at festivals ensure a safer environment, with no particular uptake in use.

Research published in Drugs, Habits and Social Policy looked at provisions available at festivals from 2016 to 2018 in Britain, studying the ‘positives and negatives’ of drug checking facilities. This included behaviours, use of the test sites themselves, and overall safety.

 

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The results state that there was not an increase in drugs on-site. 250,000 people from one focus group in 2018 were monitored using The Loop, a registered drug testing organisation and charity that published the study. 61% of this group disposed of their drugs if they were unsure of their contents after testing.

Seven festivals were analysed, all offering drug testing. There were no drug-related deaths at any of them.

Accidental overdosing from drugs is a genuine concern for festival goers. Many takers are young, inexperienced, and may be accepting pills from strangers or questionable sources. Mother of Georgia Jones, the 18-year-old who died after taking high-strength MDMA in 2018, responded to the study by saying test facilities ‘could have said her life’.

Georgia was attending Mutiny Festival in Portsmouth, where there were no testing facilities. Another man, Tommy Cowan, also died from drugs at the same event.

Surely the potential to prevent accidental death and overdosing is a good thing, right? Why would people be against their implementation at festivals?

One argument is that drug testing facilities could potentially encourage more recreational use. If there is an official admission of drugs being freely available at festivals, with no repercussions for possessing them, would this lead to a relaxation on rules, bans, and legal consequences?

The research suggests otherwise.

The Loop’s study found that only 1% of surveyed participants said they’d take more drugs as a result of test sites, and 48% said they’d take less. Take these numbers with a pinch of salt, of course, as they’re directly from drug testing organisations themselves and participants may be less likely to admit using more on official record.

 

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Still, the momentum behind drug testing services has gathered significant momentum in recent years, especially as festival seasons get fully back into swing in these post pandemic times. Numbers provided by The Loop provide compelling evidence that test sites are a good thing.

As Georgia’s mum says, ‘in my eyes there should be no argument, it should be available. It’s about saving lives.’

 

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