Drug checking added to Electric Love’s overdose prevention strategy

Organizers aim to increase safety, prevent overdoses at ‘drug and alcohol free’ festival

The Electric Love Music Festival has partnered with the BC Centre on Substance Abuse (BCCSU) to add a drug checking service on site for its fourth summer on the shores of the Fraser River.

READ: Electric Love Music Festival working to decrease noise for Agassiz, Popkum

The yearly festival takes place in Cheam Fishing Village, on the Agassiz side of the river. It showcases electronic music from DJs and artists – music often associated with psychoactive drugs like MDMA. The festival is technically drug and alcohol free, say organizers, but they can’t always prevent drugs from being sneaked in.

“So with any music festival…unfortunately there’s going to be drug use,” said operations manager Eileen Halicki. “Instead of just ignoring that, we choose to be safe and progressive and provide services from a harm-reduction standpoint.”

Along with the risk of overdose, many drugs come with the risk of contamination from more dangerous substances like fentanyl. That’s where the drug-checking service comes in.

“Drug checking allows people to anonymously submit samples of street drugs to be analyzed for their chemical makeup,” states an emailed release from Electric Love. Administered by Fraser Health and BCCSU, a “Fourier Transform Infrared spectrometer” and fentanyl test strips can test a range of substances including opioids, stimulants and other psychoactive drugs.

The test takes only a matter of minutes. It’s used at a number of other B.C. festivals, including the recent Basscoast Electronic Music and Art Festival in the Thompson-Nicola region.

Halicki said the festival is taking the same proactive approach.

“Unfortunately people will recreationally use drugs…we’re giving them a safe option to test their drugs and giving them a worry-free option – if those drugs test positive for something – to give them up and not be in trouble for having them.”

According to an emailed statement, organizers hope that the service will “allow those using substances to make informed decisions and take necessary precautions to avoid harms that may include accidental overdose.”

The festival also says it will use the results to “raise awareness about unexpected and potentially dangerous contaminants in the drug supply.”

In fact, organizers claim that this year’s harm reduction strategy is “the most comprehensive yet.”

Along with drug checking, the strategy includes medical services, on-site harm reduction outreach workers and a sanctuary space for psy-crisis support.

“All harm reduction workers, first aid staff as well as many of the festival’s staff have formal naloxone training and can administer Narcan in the event of an accidental overdose,” the media release states.

Electric Love will be held from July 26-29. Cheam First Nation put out a notice on Facebook July 19, asking residents in the area to alert the band and/or Agassiz RCMP of noise complaints. The sound levels will be measured at residences with complaints, and levels exceeding 55 decibels will require the festival to turn down the music.

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