Drug Testing At Raves & Festivals Could Save Lives

By Victoria Kim 07/14/17

Scientists examined the benefits of real-time drug testing as a harm reduction service for festivalgoers and ravers.

a crowd of ravers dancing inside of a smoke-filled venue

Offering to test people’s drugs for purity at music festivals and raves would have many public health benefits—especially since most pills do not come as pure as they’re said to be.

Data collected by volunteers with DanceSafe, a non-profit that promotes safe and responsible drug use, demonstrates the need for more testing. The volunteers tested 529 total samples of substances thought to be MDMA or “Molly” from 2010-2015—and found that only 60% of the samples (318 samples) actually contained MDMA or its close cousin MDA.

The most common adulterant was bath salts, followed by meth. 

Upon analyzing these results, Johns Hopkins University scientists conclude that Molly actually isn't “a less adulterated substance” and that pill testing services are a “legitimate harm reduction service” that could deter individuals from consuming adulterated drugs.

“People would be safest not taking any street drugs at all, but if free, no-fault testing can reduce deaths and other catastrophic consequences, it may be a service worth having,” said Matthew Johnson, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“Our results suggest that some people will reject taking a pill to get high if it doesn’t contain what they thought it did, or has harmful additives,” said Johnson.

Last summer, the Secret Garden Party, an arts and music festival in England, launched a new initiative that allowed free drug testing. Several festivalgoers threw out their stash when they found out their MDMA and ketamine were actually ammonium sulphate and anti-malaria drugs, the Daily Mail reported last July.

And in December, a British non-profit announced free drug testing for clubgoers in Preston, with the support of local police. But critics disagreed with the initiative, saying it would only enable drug use.

Meanwhile in Canada, music festivals are taking extra steps to prepare for opioid overdoses. The Winnipeg Folk Festival in Manitoba, which ran from July 6-9, equipped first aid crews with naloxone. This particular festival even has “mental health and community support crews” who make sure festivalgoers are safe, CBC reports.

And the Evolve Festival in the city of Moncton, New Brunswick, has stocked up 10 times as many naloxone kits as it did last year, for the event running from July 13-16.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr