Home > Community drug checking in music festivals: avenues for future research Shambhala 2019 report.

González-Nieto, Pablo and Sage, Chloe and Bridgeman, Jessica and Korol, Ellen E and Mathews, Jennifer and Mema, Silvina and Laing, Richard and Ti, Lianping and Arredondo, Jaime (2022) Community drug checking in music festivals: avenues for future research Shambhala 2019 report. British Columbia Centre on Substance Use. 23 p..

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Community drug checking is a public health intervention that helps inform individuals about the composition of their substances to increase awareness, avoid unintended effects, and reduce harm. These services have been mainly directed towards people who use drugs (PWUD) recreationally, specifically in music festival settings. Recently, community drug checking has been included as a harm reduction tool to help address unregulated drug toxicity deaths in British Columbia (BC), expanding their availability in other settings, like overdose prevent on sites (OPS) and community centers in the region.

Since 2003, The AIDS Network and Kootenay Outreach Support Society (ANKORS) has provided drug checking services at the Shambhala Music Festival in Salmo, BC. In recent years, ANKORS has operated services at the festival in cooperation with regional health authorities and academic institutions from BC, experimenting with new point-of-care technologies like the Fourier-transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), Fentanyl Test Strips (FTS) and confirmatory Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectroscopy (GC/MS). This document presents findings from the Shambhala 2019 Music Festival drug checking services and offers new avenues for substance use research in recreational  settings. A samplerelated survey was conducted for every drug checking service delivery, including information on the substance analyzed and the results, as well as any behaviour change after communicating the results. Also, an in-depth pilot survey designed by the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) was administered to 50 participants to identify socio-demographic characteristics of people who accessed the service, their drug use patterns and their reasons behind service utilization. Health Canada’s Drug Analysis Service (DAS) laboratory provided confirmation testing on select samples.

During the event, 1,496 individuals brought 3,178 samples for analysis. Most of the individuals (67%) self-identified as being male. The most common expected substances were MDMA (38%), Ketamine (16%) and Cocaine (14%). Most samples (84%) were analyzed using FTIR. MDMA was the substance most identified with FTIR in the samples (46%). Several difficult-to-identify samples (n=87) were sent to Health Canada’s DAS laboratory, and in most of the cases (74%), initial FTIR results were confirmed. Acquiring their substances at the festival was the most common choice (60%) among pilot survey respondents. The main reason behind bringing substances for analysis was predominantly wanting to confirm what their drug was (84%). Three avenues for future research are highlighted in this document: 1) the possibility of enhancing the use of FTIR testing through training; 2) exploring longitudinal changes in the demographics of people accessing the service, and the composition of drugs in festival settings; and 3) understanding variations in drug composition and substance use behaviours due to COVID-19.

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