After a long history of stigma attached to the consumption of drugs in Ireland and more specifically relating to festivals, the HSE has provided festival goers with harm reduction information.

Removing this taboo is a very progressive step in the right direction from a step that seemed very difficult to reach. Hopefully this momentum will continue and maybe in the near future we will see a strive to making festival goers and nightclub attendees safer so everyone can #LIVETODANCEANOTHERDAY

The HSE has launched a drug harm-reduction campaign for attendees at Irish music festivals. Body and Soul & Higher Vision Festival were the first festivals to incorporate this new HSE approach and promote drug risk-reduction messages before and during the event. had a team on-site at both festivals to talk about drug trends and harm-reduction practices with attendees, and festival medics have been trained on emerging drug trends and substances in advance of the event.

Music festival attendees report particularly high levels of illicit drug use internationally – so we are aware that, in some incidences, festivals can be an environment where drugs are taken. With hundreds of thousands attending festivals across Ireland this summer, the HSE wants people to stay safe this festival season. The message is clear; it is always safer not to use drugs at all. However, we need to be realistic and acknowledge that festivals are risk-taking settings where people may try drugs for the first time or try new types of drugs. This harm-reduction campaign is to keep people as safe as possible.

The new campaign is intended for young people going to music festivals and offers practical harm-reduction information, as well as advice on how to reduce the risks of drug use.
The main harm-reduction advice from experts is:

1. Leave the mixing to the DJ 
Mixing drugs, including alcohol and  prescription medication increases your risk of becoming unwell or overdosing.

2. Keep cool and stay hydrated 
Sip water, but don’t drink over a pint an hour. Take breaks from dancing and give yourself time to cool down.

3. Don’t be afraid to get help
Especially if you or a friend becomes unwell or feels suicidal after using drugs. Be honest with emergency services about what was taken, they are there to help.

4. Visit

Dr Eamon Keenan, HSE’s National Clinical Lead-Addiction Services, stressed the risks associated with mixing drugs:

“We are aware that young people mix drugs, and of certain trends related to this, such as mixing cocaine and ketamine. We are also aware that young people are using newer drugs such as 2 CB. Ireland ranks third highest for the use of cocaine in Europe and second in the use of MDMA, after the Netherlands. We are particularly concerned in relation to high potency MDMA and other drugs that are circulating in Europe. We anticipate these trends for festival season, but mixing drugs, even with alcohol, increases your risk of adverse consequences or overdosing. Never mix drugs, and if you begin to feel unwell, do not be afraid to get help and be honest with emergency services about what was taken, they are there to help.”
Nicki Killeen from HSE’s National Social Inclusion Office, said about the campaign:
“We want harm-reduction to become part of people’s festival preparation, so these messages will be promoted online, as well as in universities, nightclubs and at festivals. It is important that the messages reach people in the lead up to festivals so that they are familiar with our messages before inhibitions are lowered and they can implement our advice before substances are consumed”.
Campaign Research 
To gain a better understanding of festival drug use and harm-reduction practices, the HSE are also launching a novel study ‘What are you taking?’, with Dr Jo-Hanna Ivers from Trinity College Dublin as part of this campaign. The research will investigate festival drug trends, health and sexual well-being, preferred music genres, and if people would use drug testing facilities at festivals.

Dr Jo-Hanna Ivers, Assistant Professor in Addiction, Trinity College Dublin highlights the importance in researching drug prevalence at festivals:
“Music festivals are a massive part of Irish and European culture, and club drugs are a dominant part of the festival experience for many. Nevertheless, given the high turnover of new drugs and the environment that these substances are taken, the risk of overdose is high. However, few studies have consulted with festival goers around this issue.  The current study is the first of its kind in an Irish context and one of the few internationally. The study will provide key insights into attitudes towards use and need for harm reduction measures.”
As part of the National Drug and Alcohol Strategy ‘Reducing Harm Supporting Recovery’ the HSE has committed to establishing a working group later this year to examine the issue of emerging drug trends.
For more information, visit or follow #SafeUpYourSesh on social media

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